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Bahrain

Executive Summary

Bahrain is a hereditary monarchy. King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa is the head of state and holds ultimate authority over most government decisions. The king appoints the prime minister, the head of government, who is not required to be a member of parliament. In November 2020 the king appointed his son, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, as prime minister, following the death of the incumbent. The prime minister proposes ministers, who are appointed and dismissed by the king via royal decree. The cabinet, or Council of Ministers, consists of 22 ministers, of whom seven are members of the ruling Al Khalifa family. The parliament consists of an upper house appointed by the king, the Shura (Consultative) Council, and an elected Council of Representatives, each with 40 seats. The country holds parliamentary elections every four years, most recently in 2018. Representatives from two formerly prominent opposition political societies, al-Wifaq and Wa’ad, could not participate in the elections due to their court-ordered dissolution in 2016 and 2017, respectively. The government did not permit international election monitors. Domestic monitors generally concluded authorities administered the elections without significant procedural irregularities.

The king is supreme commander of the armed forces, and the crown prince is deputy commander. The Ministry of Interior is responsible for internal security and oversees the civilian security force and specialized security units responsible for maintaining internal order. The Coast Guard is also under its jurisdiction. The Bahrain National Guard is responsible for internal threats. The chief of the National Intelligence Agency (previously the National Security Agency) is appointed by royal decree and reports to the prime minister. The agency has arrest authority, but reportedly did not conduct arrests during the year. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by government; harsh and life threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention; political prisoners; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including censorship, and the existence of criminal libel laws; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental organizations; restrictions on freedom of movement, including revocation of citizenship; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; and significant restrictions on workers’ freedom of association.

The government prosecuted some low-level security force members responsible for human rights abuses, following investigations by government institutions. The government took steps to investigate allegations of corruption. Nongovernmental human rights organizations claimed investigations were slow and lacked transparency.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: The law subjects government employees at all levels to prosecution if they use their positions to engage in embezzlement or bribery, either directly or indirectly. Penalties range up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

The National Audit Office, an arm of the prime minister’s office, is responsible for combating government corruption. The Government Executive Committee, chaired by the prime minister, reviews any offenses cited in the office’s annual report, released in October.

The Interior Ministry’s General Directorate of Anticorruption and Economic and Electronic Security held workshops for various ministries throughout the year.

There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. According to the Ministry of Interior, the General Directorate of Anti-Corruption and Economic and Electronic Security investigated 96 embezzlement, bribery, and abuse of power cases, in addition to three offenses stemming from the National Audit Office report to the cabinet.

On November 23, the High Criminal Court referred two government employees, suspected of embezzlement charges related to renovating mosques, to a court specialized in trying cases linked to financial corruption. Separately, two Ministry of Interior employees appeared before the High Criminal Court on December 9 on corruption charges.

Significant areas of government activity, including the security services, the Bahrain Defense Force, and other off-budget government expenditures, lacked transparency, and the privatization of public land for profit remained a concern among opposition groups.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Government officials sometimes met with local human rights NGOs but generally were not responsive to the views of NGOs they believed were politicized and unfairly critical of the government.

Domestic human rights groups were restricted by the government, with some activists imprisoned, exiled, or coerced into silence, according to international human rights organizations. Domestic human rights groups included: the Bahrain Human Rights Society, a licensed human rights organization in the country; the Bahrain Center for Human Rights which, although dissolved by the government in 2004, continued to operate and maintain an online presence; and the unlicensed Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights. The unlicensed umbrella human rights organization, Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, issued numerous reports and had strong ties to international human rights NGOs.

The government imposed restrictions on domestic human rights groups, and they faced significant difficulties operating freely and interacting with international human rights organizations. Although there were no reports of the government depriving local NGO leaders of due process, local leaders and activists did report other types of harassment, including police surveillance, delayed processing of civil documents, “inappropriate questioning” of their children during interviews for government scholarships, and restricting their ability to travel internationally. Activists reported forgoing travel, in particular to international human rights events, fearing a reimposition of international travel bans.

Individuals affiliated with international human rights and labor organizations, or who were critical of the government, reported authorities indefinitely delayed or refused their visa applications, or at times refused entry to the country for individuals who possessed a valid visa or qualified for the country’s visa-free entry program.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ombudsman’s Office within the Ministry of Interior, the SIU within the PPO, and the PDRC worked with each other throughout the year. The Ombudsman’s Office maintained a hotline for citizens to report police abuse via telephone, email, WhatsApp, or in person. The National Intelligence Agency Office of the Inspector General, created as a result of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, worked with the Ombudsman’s Office. While both offices were responsible for addressing allegations of mistreatment and abuses by the security forces, there was little public information available regarding the activities of the agency’s parent Office of the Inspector General.

The PDRC monitored prisons, detention centers, and other places where persons may be detained, such as hospital and psychiatric facilities. The PDRC was empowered to conduct inspections of facilities, interview inmates or detainees, and refer cases to the Ombudsman’s Office or SIU. The Ombudsman also concurrently served as the PDRC chair. The NIHR conducted human rights workshops, seminars, and training sessions, as well as prison visits, and referred complaints to the PPO. It also operated a hotline for citizens and residents to file human rights-related complaints and offered a walk-in option for filing complaints.

On February 22, NIHR launched an online introductory meeting regarding its human rights training program, Foras (opportunities). The training was open to citizen students in local universities and abroad.

Many human rights groups asserted that investigations into police abuse were slow and ineffective, and they questioned the independence and credibility of investigations by government-sponsored organizations.

Local and international observers and human rights organizations continued to express concern the government had not fully implemented recommendations from the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, including dropping charges against individuals engaged in nonviolent political expression, criminally charging security officers accused of abuse or torture, integrating Shia citizens into security forces, and creating an environment conducive to national reconciliation.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal, although the penal code allows men accused of rape to marry female survivors to avoid punishment. The law does not address spousal rape. Penalties for rape include life imprisonment or execution when the survivor is younger than age 16, the rapist is the survivor’s custodian or guardian, or the rape causes death.

The law states violence against women is a crime. Nevertheless, domestic violence against women was common, according to several women’s rights organizations. Although government leaders and some members of parliament participated in awareness-raising activities during the year, including debates on additional legislation, authorities devoted little attention to supporting public campaigns aimed at the problem. The government maintained a shelter for women and children who were survivors of domestic violence. The law provides that local police officials should be contacted in cases of domestic violence and that the public prosecutor may investigate if information is passed from police to them. Survivors of domestic violence, however, reported difficulty knowing whom to contact or how to proceed when filing a complaint.

The government did not provide statistics on documented instances or prosecutions physical or sexual abuse of women.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C was rarely practiced. No specific law prohibits the practice, although legal experts previously indicated the act falls under criminal code provisions that prohibit “permanent disability to another person.”

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: By law “honor” killings are charged as a homicide and punishable with life in prison or a death sentence. The penal code provides a prison sentence for killing a spouse caught in an act of adultery, whether male or female. There were no cases of honor killings reported during the year.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, including insulting or committing an indecent act towards a woman in public, with penalties of imprisonment and fines. Although the government sometimes enforced the law, sexual harassment remained a widespread problem for women, especially foreign female domestic workers.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

There are no known legal barriers or penalties for accessing contraception. Health centers did not require women to obtain spousal consent for provision of most family planning services but did require such consent for women seeking sterilization procedures. Mothers giving birth out of wedlock in public or government-run hospitals often faced challenges in obtaining birth certificates for their children.

Contraceptives were available without prescription throughout the country regardless of nationality, gender, age, or marital status. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, although emergency contraception was not available.

Discrimination: Women have the right to initiate divorce proceedings in family courts, but unlike for men, both Shia and Sunni religious courts may refuse the request. In divorce cases the courts routinely granted custody of daughters younger than age nine and sons younger than age seven to Shia mothers, with Shia fathers typically gaining custody once girls and boys reached the ages of nine and seven, respectively. Sunni women were able to retain custody of daughters until age 17 and sons until age 15. Regardless of custody decisions, the father retains guardianship, or the right to make all legal decisions for the child, until age 21. A noncitizen woman automatically loses custody of her children if she divorces their citizen father “without just cause.” Any divorced woman who remarries loses custody of her children from a prior marriage.

The basis for family law is sharia, as interpreted by Sunni and Shia religious experts. In 2017 King Hamad ratified the Shia portion of the Unified Family Law codifying the rights of Shia citizens, in particular women, according to the civil code on issues such as marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. Shia and Sunni family law is enforced by separate judicial bodies composed of religious authorities charged with interpreting sharia. The revised civil law provides access to family courts for all women, providing the standardized application of the law and further legal recourse, since decisions made by family court judges are subject to review by the Supreme Judicial Council. In instances of mixed Sunni-Shia marriages, families may choose which court hears the issue.

Lawyers expressed concern regarding the long waiting periods for final judgments in Shia courts, particularly in divorce cases.

Women may own and inherit property and represent themselves in all public and legal matters. In the absence of a direct male heir, Shia women may inherit all of their husband’s property, while Sunni women inherit only a portion, with the brothers or other male relatives of the deceased also receiving a share. The government respected wills directing the division of assets according to the deceased.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The law grants citizenship to ethnic Arab applicants who have resided in the country for 15 years and non-Arab applicants who have resided in the country for 25 years. There were numerous reports that authorities did not apply the citizenship law uniformly. NGOs stated the government allowed foreign Sunni employees of the security services who had lived in the country fewer than 15 years to apply for citizenship, while there were reports authorities had not granted citizenship to Arab Shia residents who had resided in the country for more than 15 years and non-Arab foreign residents who had resided for more than 25 years.

Children

Birth Registration: Individuals derive citizenship from their father or by decree from the king. Women do not transmit their nationality to their children, rendering stateless some children of citizen mothers and noncitizen fathers (see section 2.d.).

Authorities do not register births immediately. From birth to the age of three months, the mother’s primary health-care provider holds registration for the children. When a child reaches three months, authorities register the birth with the Ministry of Health’s Birth Registration Unit, which then issues the official birth certificate. Children not registered before reaching their first birthday must obtain a registration by court order. The government does not provide public services to a child without a birth certificate.

Education: Schooling is compulsory for children until age 15 and is provided free of charge to citizens and legal residents through grade 12. Authorities segregated government-run schools by gender, although girls and boys used the same curricula and textbooks. Islamic studies based on Sunni doctrine are mandatory for all Muslim public school students and are optional for non-Muslim students.

Child Abuse: The Family Courts have jurisdiction over child abuse matters.

There were reports police approached children outside schools and threatened or coerced them into becoming police informants.

In February the king issued the Restorative Justice Law for Children and Protection from Mistreatment, which came into effect August 18 (see sections 1.d., Prison and Detention Center Conditions and 1.e., Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies). The law raised the criminal age of majority from 15 to 18 and established children’s courts, a child protection center, and a special children’s judicial committee to review criminal cases involving juveniles. The law also mandates alternative noncustodial sentences for juvenile offenders.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: According to the law, the minimum age of marriage is 16 years for girls and 18 years for boys, but special circumstances allow marriages before reaching these ages with approval from a sharia court.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits exploitation of a child for various crimes, including in commercial sex and child pornography. The Restorative Justice Law for Children and Protection from Mistreatment, which came into effect August 18, imposes harsher penalties on adults who sexually exploit children or incite or coerce children to commit crimes, including increasing the mandatory minimum prison sentence for child pornography crimes to two years.

The age of consent is age 21 and there is no close-in-age exemption.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

According to community members, there were between 36 and 40 Jewish citizens (six families) in the country. On August 22, a former ambassador announced the celebration of the first Shabbat minyan (traditional service with a quorum of 10 adult Jewish males) in the country since 1947. Diplomats, members of Jewish communities throughout the Gulf, and local and Emirati Muslims also attended.

In October the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities organized the first Jewish wedding in the country in 52 years. The event, done under the auspices of the Orthodox Union, the world’s largest kosher certification agency, was the first strictly kosher wedding in the kingdom’s history.

In response to Israeli Foreign Minister Lapid’s September 30 visit to inaugurate Israel’s new embassy and sign memoranda of understanding on expanding bilateral cooperation, opposition and pro-Iran factions posted antinormalization statements on social media and organized several small street protests. Protesters burned an Israeli flag, chanted “Death to Israel,” and carried posters of the Palestinian flag.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities could not access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. The constitution provides for social security, social insurance, and health care for persons with disabilities. The government administered a committee to oversee the provision of care for persons with disabilities that included representatives from all relevant ministries, NGOs, and the private sector. The committee was responsible for monitoring abuses against persons with disabilities. During the year the government did not prosecute any cases for offenses against persons with disabilities.

Building codes require accessible facilities in all new government and public buildings in the central municipality. The law does not mandate access to private, nonresidential buildings for persons with disabilities.

No information was available on the responsibilities of government agencies to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. According to anecdotal evidence, persons with disabilities routinely lacked access to education, accessible housing, and employment. The sole government school for children with hearing disabilities did not operate past the 10th grade. Some public schools had specialized education programs for children with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, speech disabilities, and intellectual and developmental disabilities, including Down syndrome. The law stipulates equal treatment for persons with disabilities with regard to employment, and abuses of the law are punishable with fines.

Eligible voters may vote either in their regular precincts or in a general polling station. Local precincts, which are mostly in schools, sometimes posed problems to voters with mobility disabilities due to lack of physical accessibility. General polling stations in public spaces such as malls allowed for assistive devices. There was no absentee ballot system.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Development continued to work with the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in cooperation with the UN Development Program.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were no known cases involving societal violence or discrimination against persons based on HIV or AIDS status, but medical experts acknowledged that discrimination existed. The government mandated screening of newly arrived migrant workers for infectious diseases, including HIV and AIDS. In prior years the government deported migrant workers found to be HIV-positive; the status of deportations during the year was unclear.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law does not criminalize same-sex sexual conduct between consenting adults at least age 21, but it allots fines, imprisonment, deportation, or any of them for persons engaging in “immoral behavior,” and this provision has been used against individuals suspected of being LGBTQI+ or cross-dressing.

The law does not extend antidiscrimination protections to LGBTQI+ individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity occurred, including in employment and obtaining legal identity documents. In some cases, however, courts permitted transgender individuals to update identity documents if they had undergone sex reassignment surgery.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution and labor code recognize the right to form and join independent trade unions, as well as the right to strike, but with significant restrictions. The law does not provide for the right to collective bargaining. The government did not effectively enforce all applicable laws, including prohibitions on antiunion discrimination. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination.

The law prohibits trade unions in the public sector. Public sector workers may join private sector trade unions and professional associations, although these entities may not bargain on their behalf. The law also prohibits members of the military services and domestic workers from joining unions. Foreign workers, composing nearly 80 percent of the civilian workforce, may join unions if they work in a sector that allows unions, although the law reserves union leadership roles for citizens. The law prohibits unions from engaging in political activities.

The law specifies that only an official trade union may organize or declare a strike, and it imposes requirements for legal strikes. The law prohibits strikes in 12 “vital” sectors, the scope of which exceeds international standards, including the oil, gas, education, telecommunications, transportation, and health sectors, as well as pharmacies and bakeries. The law makes no distinction between “vital” and “nonvital” employees within these sectors. Workers must approve a strike with a simple majority and provide 15 days’ notification to the employer before conducting a strike.

The law allows multiple trade union federations but prohibits multisector labor federations. The law bars individuals convicted of violating criminal laws that lead to trade union or executive council dissolution from holding union leadership posts. The law gives the labor minister, rather than the unions, the right to select the federation to represent workers in national-level bargaining and international forums. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination; however, independent unions faced government resistance. The law does not require reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

Some workers and union affiliates complained union pluralism resulted in company management interfering in union dues collection and workers’ chosen union affiliation. They stated that management chose to negotiate with the union it found most favorable to the detriment of collective bargaining agreements and the legitimate voice of workers.

In 2020 the government reported that it considered completed efforts at reinstatement, which had been required by a 2014 tripartite agreement with the International Labor Organization (ILO). Union representatives reported that nearly all the roughly 5,000 cases of arbitrary dismissal or labor discrimination had been resolved through either reinstatement or by financial compensation. Human rights organizations and activists questioned the government’s claims and reported continuing, systemic labor discrimination.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor except in national emergencies; however, the government did not enforce the law effectively. The antitrafficking law prescribes penalties ranging from three to 15 years’ imprisonment, a significant fine, and the cost of repatriating the victim(s), which were sufficiently stringent, and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

There were reports of forced labor in the construction and service sectors. The labor law covers foreign workers other than domestic workers. Enforcement was lax, and cases of debt bondage were common. There were also reports of forced labor practices among domestic workers and others working in the informal sector; labor laws did not protect most of these workers. Domestic workers from third countries have the right to see the terms of their employment contract before leaving their home countries or upon arrival. The law requires domestic workers hired through employment offices to have a tripartite contract, with the signature of the employer, recruitment office, and employee. In the case of direct hiring of a domestic worker, the employer must submit a pledge of the employer’s obligations to the Ministry of Labor and Social Development.

According to reports by third-country labor officials and human rights organizations, employers withheld passports illegally, restricted movement and communication, substituted contracts, or did not pay wages. Some employers also threatened workers and subjected them to physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.

In 2016 the ministry instituted procedures that allow workers to change the employer associated with their visa without permission from their former employer or without their passport, under certain conditions including abuse or withheld wages. The ministry threatened employers who withheld passports with criminal and administrative violations and prohibited at-fault employers from hiring new workers. The PPO did not prosecute any individuals for withholding their employees’ passports. During the year the government shut down recruitment agencies and revoked licenses of others for infringing on workers’ rights. Recruitment agencies complicit in illegal practices may be subject to license revocation, legal action, shutdown of business operations, or a forfeit of license deposits.

The ministry’s Protective Inspection Directorate (PID) employed 70 inspectors who were responsible for enforcement of employment violations, immigration violations, and worksite inspections. The PID reported conducting 2,264 inspections during the reporting year, 152 of those for recruitment agencies. Through these inspections the government permanently shut down six companies and suspended one recruitment agency. It also suspended 15 additional companies due to noncompliance with regulations and having workers without legal status employed in the establishments.

The ministry employed inspectors who were sworn officers of the court, with the authority to conduct official investigations. Inspector reports may result in fines, court cases, loss of work permits, and termination of businesses. These inspectors focus on the legal and administrative provisions under which individuals fall, including work permits, employer records, and licenses.

In July the Ministry of Interior launched two new hotlines – one to report human trafficking cases and another to report sponsors who demand money from workers before transferring sponsorship. Complaints from both hotlines fed into the National Referral Mechanism for trafficking victims.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

Laws and regulations related to child labor generally meet international standards. After thorough consultations with local government officials, diplomats of labor-sending countries, representatives from local civil society organizations, and the International Organization for Migration, experts determined that child labor occurred but was not a prevalent problem in the country. The government generally enforced the law. Penalties for violations were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

The minimum age for employment is 15, and the minimum age for hazardous work is 18. Children younger than 18 may not work in industries the Ministry of Health deems hazardous or unhealthy, including construction, mining, and oil refining. They may work no more than six hours a day and no more than four consecutive workdays and may not be present on the employment premises more than seven hours a day. Child labor regulations do not apply to family-operated businesses in which the only other employees are family members.

The law requires that before the Ministry of Labor makes a final decision on allowing a minor to work, the prospective employer must present: documentation from the minor’s guardian giving the minor permission to work; proof the minor underwent a physical fitness examination to determine suitability; and assurance from the employer the minor would not work in an environment the ministry deemed hazardous.

There was evidence that children continued to engage in domestic work and sell items on the street. The government did not conduct research to determine the nature and extent of child labor in the country.

The law does not allow expatriate workers younger than 18 to work in the country.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: There is no national private sector minimum wage law. A standardized government pay scale covers public sector workers, with a set minimum monthly wage. While the minimum wage for citizens is generally considered a living wage, there is no minimum wage for foreign workers in the public sector; however, the government issued “guidelines” advising employers in the public and private sectors to pay a minimum monthly wage. There was no official poverty level.

Subject to the provisions of the private-sector law, employers may not employ a worker for more than 48 hours per week without including contract provisions for overtime pay. Employers may not employ Muslim workers during the month of Ramadan for more than six hours per day or 36 hours per week. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

On May 1, the government launched the Wage Protection System (WPS) for employees working in the private sector. The government implemented WPS in phases, which required wages be paid through licensed commercial banks, based on the number of workers employed by businesses. According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, WPS secures workers’ rights, combats trafficking in persons, protects employers’ rights by documenting money transfers, and provides documentation to settle labor disputes. The ministry stated it would penalize employers who fail to pay monthly salaries on time and per contractual obligations.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health (OSH) standards were not appropriate for the main industries in the country; the government did not effectively enforce existing OSH standards. Workers risked jeopardizing their employment for refusal to work in hazardous conditions or if they took legal action against employers who retaliated against them for exercising their right to remove themselves from such conditions.

The Ministry of Labor sets occupational safety and health standards. The labor law and relevant protections apply to citizens and noncitizens alike, with the exception of domestic workers. The law stipulates that companies in violation of occupational safety standards may be subject to fines. Penalties for violations of occupational, safety, and health laws were not commensurate with those for similar crimes such as negligence.

The Ministry of Labor employed general inspectors and occupational safety inspectors. Their roles are to inspect workplaces, occupational health and safety conditions, and the employer/employee work relationship. The ministry used a team of engineers from multiple specialties primarily to investigate risks and standards at construction sites, which were the vast majority of worksites. Inspectors have the authority to levy fines and close worksites if employers do not improve conditions by specified deadlines. A judge determines fines per violation, per worker affected, or both. A judge may also sentence violators to prison. For repeat violators, the court may double the penalties. NGOs expressed concern that resources for enforcement of the laws would be inadequate for the number of worksites and workers, that worksites would not be inspected, and that violations would continue despite the new regulations.

A ministerial decree prohibits outdoor work between noon and 4 p.m. during July and August because of heat conditions. Authorities enforced the ban with regard to large firms, but according to local observers, violations by smaller businesses were common and without consequences. Employers who violate the ban are subject to up to three months’ imprisonment, fines, or both, but enforcement was inconsistent. The ministry documented 27 companies that violated the summer heat ban during the year.

On February 25, a criminal court sentenced an official found guilty of causing the death of construction workers at a sewage treatment plant to three years in prison and a fine.

The government and courts generally worked to rectify labor abuses brought to their attention. The government published pamphlets on foreign workers’ rights in several languages and provided manuals on these rights to local diplomatic missions. Workers could file complaints with the government via email, in person, or through government hotlines. The Ministry of Interior reported it received 450 calls to its hotline since its establishment in July. There were 6,769 combined and individual labor-related complaints during the year, including complaints filed by domestic workers. The vast majority of cases involving abused domestic workers, however, did not reach the ministry or the public prosecutor. The government provided victims with a range of services, including shelter, food, clothing, medical and psychological care, legal counsel, and grants from the Victim Assistance Fund. The National Committee for Combating Trafficking in Persons provided shelter and services to victims and potential victims on a case-by-case basis.

Local organizations reported that they visited unregistered camps and accommodations, including accommodations of irregular “free visa” workers, who they observed often lived in overcrowded apartments with poor safety standards.

Informal Sector: Violations of wage, overtime, and occupational safety and health standards were common in sectors employing informal foreign workers, such as construction, automotive repair, and domestic service. Unskilled foreign workers, mostly from South and Southeast Asia, constituted approximately 60 percent of the total workforce, and many were employed informally. These workers were vulnerable to dangerous or exploitive working conditions. According to NGOs workplace safety inspection and compliance were substandard.

The labor law does not fully protect domestic workers, and this group was particularly vulnerable to exploitation due to the difficulties of oversight and access to private residences. Additionally, NGOs report employers and recruitment agencies provided employees contracts with differing terms in different languages.

The Ministries of Labor and Interior acknowledge severe underreporting of abuse and labor exploitation. NGOs and activists provided credible reports that employers forced many of the country’s 86,000 domestic workers, most of them women, to work 12- to 16-hour days, and illegally seized their passports and cell phones. Some domestic workers reported that their employers permitted very little time off, left female workers malnourished, and subjected them to verbal and physical abuse, including sexual molestation and rape. The press, embassies, and police received numerous reports of abuse of domestic workers. As a response the National Committee for Combating Trafficking in Persons provided workers with shelter. Most women in these cases sought assistance with unpaid wages and complaints of physical abuse.

On October 11, the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs reported that 91 distressed Filipino workers had been repatriated, including minors, pardoned prisoners, individuals without residency status, pregnant women, medical patients, and others who had sought refuge in the Philippines Embassy.

The Flexi Permit, a renewable one- or two-year permit that allows foreign workers to remain in the country and work without a sponsor, authorizes previously out-of-status workers to legalize their residency; the government issues these permits as an alternative to the kafala work sponsorship system. In December an NGO noted that its high cost precludes many from enrolling in the program.

According to NGOs the construction sector employed more Indians, Bangladeshis, and Pakistanis than other nationalities. Worker deaths generally were due to a combination of inadequate enforcement of standards, violations of standards, inadequate safety procedures, worker ignorance of safety procedures, and inadequate safety standards for equipment. The level of freedom foreign workers enjoyed directly related to the type of work they performed.

A Ministry of Labor order requires employers to register any living accommodations provided to employees. The order also mandates minimum housing standards for employer-provided accommodations. Of the 14,000 labor accommodations, 62 percent of them were in unauthorized areas. Many migrant workers lived in unregistered accommodations that included makeshift housing in parking garages, apartments rented by employers from private owners, family houses modified to accommodate many persons, and single beds for rent. Conditions in the many unregistered or irregular worker camps were often squalid and overcrowded. Inspectors do not have the right to enter houses or apartment buildings not registered as work camps to inspect conditions.

Bolivia

Executive Summary

Bolivia is a constitutional, multiparty republic with an elected president and a bicameral legislature. In October 2020 Luis Alberto Arce Catacora, candidate for the Movement Towards Socialism party, won the presidential election with 55 percent of the vote. International electoral observation missions and domestic electoral observation organizations characterized the national elections and the subsequent subnational elections in March and April as free, fair, and transparent.

The national police, under the Ministry of Government’s authority, have primary responsibility for law enforcement and the maintenance of order within the country, but the armed forces, which report to the Ministry of Defense, may be called to help in critical situations. Immigration officials report to the Ministry of Government, and police and military share responsibilities for border enforcement. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by government officials; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrests or detentions; serious problems concerning judicial independence; restrictions on free expression, the press, and other media, including violence against journalists by state security forces and censorship; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women; crimes involving violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons; and some of the worst forms of child labor.

The government took steps in some cases to prosecute members of the security services and other government officials who committed abuses or corrupt acts, but inconsistent and ineffective application of the law and a corrupt judiciary led to impunity.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: Authorities apprehended Minister of Rural Development and Lands Edwin Characayo on April 12 for taking a $20,000 bribe in exchange for land titles and agriculture-drainage services. On April 14, Minister of Justice Lima stated Characayo was the subject of a criminal investigation involving “authorities at different levels of the state.”

On July 13, anticorruption prosecutor Anghelo Saravia was convicted of taking bribes to drop charges against potential defendants. Saravia was recorded taking the bribe during a sting operation. Civil society activists reported that situations such as Saravia’s were common and that prosecutors usually took $2,500 per case to drop charges.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views, with some exceptions.

On September 10, a radical group known as the Wila Lluch’us called on its followers to burn down the home of human rights activist Amparo Carvajal. The government refused calls to denounce the group, claiming it did not exist. Wila Lluch’us subsequently confirmed its existence and its ties to the government but denied having called for violence against Carvajal.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The constitution establishes a human rights ombudsman, subject to confirmation by both houses of Congress, with a six-year term. The ombudsman is charged with defending and promoting human rights, specifically defending citizens against government abuses. The constitution also gives the ombudsman the right to propose legislation and recommend modifications to laws and government policies. The ombudsman operated with inadequate resources. Civil society groups and several political figures contended the ombudsman lacked independence from the central government, in part because the MAS supermajority in Congress allowed for the nominee’s confirmation without meaningful debate.

Both houses of Congress had human rights committees that proposed laws and policies to promote and protect human rights. Opposition politicians accused the MAS of using the Ethics Committee within the Chamber of Deputies for political purposes. On June 24, the MAS-controlled committee accepted a complaint against 12 opposition legislators for having travelled to the United States “without permission.” The travelling legislators in question met with leadership from the Organization of American States, the IACHR, and Human Rights Watch. These legislators also denounced the arrest of former interim president Anez and the promotion of a false “coup” narrative related to the 2019 postelection unrest. (For information on former president Jeanine Anez, see section 1.d., Arbitrary Arrest.)

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law establishes penalties of imprisonment for 15 to 20 years for conviction of the rape of an adult (man or woman), but it was rarely enforced.

The law prohibits domestic violence, but it too was rarely enforced. Conviction of domestic abuse resulting in injury is punishable by three to six years’ imprisonment, and the penalty for conviction of serious physical or psychological injury is a five- to 12-year prison sentence. Despite these legal provisions, the NGO Community of Human Rights reported two-thirds of domestic violence cases were closed without action, and the conviction rate of the remaining cases was less than 1 percent.

Lack of training on the law and slow judicial processes, among other factors, continued to hinder the law’s full implementation, according to the UN Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and human rights groups. Domestic violence was the most frequently committed crime in the country, according to the National Observatory of Public Safety. According to a survey conducted by the local NGO Coordinator of Women, 50 percent of women were survivors of a violent crime sometime in their lives; two-thirds of these women suffered violence in their own home.

The law criminalizes femicide, the killing of a woman based on her identity as a woman, and conviction stipulates a sentence of 30 years in prison. Activists stated corruption, a lack of adequate crime scene investigation, a lack of specialized prosecutors, and a dysfunctional, underfunded judiciary hampered convictions for femicide.

On July 20, Lucy Alejandra Huanca was found dead in her home in Santa Cruz after her partner, a police officer, allegedly beat her to death. Huanca had twice filed domestic abuse reports against her partner. A court issued a protective order in 2019, and Huanca retracted her second complaint in 2020.

In August 2020 Betsabe Mara Alacia was killed by her partner, police lieutenant Adan Boris Mina. Investigations showed that Mina shot and killed, burned, and dismembered Alacia’s body. Mina was captured, tried, convicted, and sentenced to 30 years in prison, but investigators indicated that two or three police officers helped cover up the crime and were not apprehended. On March 10, it was reported Mina regularly left the prison with help from authorities and that he threatened the victim’s family.

Women’s rights organizations reported police assigned to the Special Force against Violence did not have sufficient resources and frontline officers lacked proper training regarding their investigatory responsibilities. Women’s organizations also reported domestic violence survivors received poor representation from public defenders and generally abandoned their cases after the cases languished in the justice system for years. On average it took three years for a domestic violence case to conclude. Once the case was closed, the survivor was often responsible for the legal fees. The lack of public services, lengthy judicial processes, and financial burdens discouraged most women from reporting domestic abuse by their spouses.

A law passed in 2014 called for the construction of women’s shelters in each of the country’s nine departments, but as of 2020 only four departments had shelters. Human rights activists explained the shelters for domestic violence survivors were not well staffed, did not promise anonymity, and could not provide protection from abusers. Activists stated that shelters mixed populations of vulnerable women, girls, and boys, including juvenile delinquents, human trafficking victims, sexual abuse survivors, and minors with mental-health problems.

On August 3, El Alto mayor Eva Copa signed an agreement with the domestic NGO Women Creating to implement “a critical route for women in situations of violence” across the municipality of El Alto. The agreement sought to provide high-quality and timely services to survivors of violence. The agreement expanded 24-hour legal and medical assistance and aimed to offer a seamless support system for survivors whenever they decided to flee violence and seek safety.

Sexual Harassment: The law considers sexual harassment a criminal offense for which conviction is punishable by up to eight years’ imprisonment. There were no comprehensive reports on the extent of sexual harassment, but observers generally acknowledged it was widespread (see also section 3, Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups) and that the sexual harassment laws were rarely enforced.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Civil society noted information on access to reproductive health could be difficult to obtain in rural areas due to lack of medical infrastructure.

The law provides for access to contraceptives, but according to reproductive rights group Marie Stopes International-Bolivia, many health-care providers refused to provide the service and stigmatized patients who requested contraceptives. Some health-care providers required the consent of an adult woman’s husband or other male family member before providing her with contraceptives and would not provide contraceptives to adolescents without parental consent. Misinformation and social taboos made women hesitant to seek contraceptives.

Lack of access to quality medical care in remote areas adversely affected access to skilled health-care attendance during pregnancy and birth. In addition many indigenous women feared their cultural traditions regarding who should be present at the birth, the treatment of the placenta, and treatment of the umbilical cord would not be respected if they gave birth in a hospital or clinic.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception.

According to the World Health Organization, the maternal mortality rate was 155 per 100,000 live births in 2017. The Pan American Health Organization reported one-third of all maternal deaths were caused by obstetric hemorrhage, usually postpartum. Another leading cause of maternal death was unsafe, clandestine abortions; access to adequate postabortion care and obstetric emergency services was limited.

The maternal mortality rate was higher among indigenous women due to lack of access to adequate medical services. In El Alto, the second largest city, largely composed of indigenous persons, the maternal mortality rate was 316 per 100,000 live births. The higher mortality rate was attributed to the city’s slow-growing health-care system not keeping pace with the city’s 30 percent population growth in the last 10 years.

Girls in rural areas lacked access to menstrual hygiene products, which affected their performance in school. The law prohibits schools from expelling pregnant girls, but 25 percent of pregnant girls dropped out of school in 2019 either because of social pressure or lack of government assistance, or both.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, but women generally did not enjoy a social status equal to that of men. The government did not enforce the law effectively. (See also section 7.d. for information regarding labor laws that discriminate against women.)

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The 2012 census established the existence of 23,300 Afro-Bolivians. Afro-Bolivians in rural areas experienced the same types of problems and discrimination as indigenous persons who lived in those areas. Afro-Bolivian community leaders reported that employment discrimination was common and that public officials, particularly police, discriminated in the provision of services. Afro-Bolivians also reported the widespread use of discriminatory language. The government made little effort to address such discrimination.

Indigenous Peoples

In the 2012 census, approximately 41 percent of the population older than age 15 self-identified as indigenous, primarily from the Quechua and Aymara communities.

Many indigenous communities were well represented in government and politics, but they had a disproportionately large share of poverty and unemployment. Government educational and health services remained unavailable to many indigenous groups living in remote areas.

Indigenous lands were not fully demarcated, and land reform remained a major political problem. Historically, some indigenous persons shared lands collectively under the ayllu (traditional form of a community) system, which did not receive legal recognition during the transition to private property laws. Despite laws mandating reallocation and titling of lands, recognition and demarcation of indigenous lands were not completed.

Lowlands indigenous peoples complained they were not well represented in government or by elected representatives. These indigenous groups resided in three departments of the country’s eastern lowlands: Santa Cruz, Beni, and Pando. These indigenous peoples included several ethnic and linguistic groups that considered themselves distinct from the Aymara and Quechua indigenous groups of the highland plateau region. Leaders of the indigenous communities of lowlands Santa Cruz Department described growing anger and frustration with the national government for continuing a land policy developed under former president Evo Morales. The leaders decried the policy as having turned into a de facto mechanism for redistributing indigenous lands to government loyalists who allegedly ignited uncontrolled burns to clear the land, exhausted the nutrient-poor Amazon soil within three to four years with coca cultivation, turned the land over to Chinese companies for mineral extraction, and then repeated the cycle nearby.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived both through birth within the country’s territory (unless the parents have diplomatic status) and from parents. The 2018 civil registry indicated 78 percent of citizens were registered within one year of their birth and 96 percent by age 12.

Child Abuse: The penal code defines infanticide as the killing of a child younger than 13. Conviction for rape of a child younger than 14 carries a penalty of 20 to 25 years’ imprisonment. The Justice Ministry reported 1,308 cases of child abuse in 2020, compared with 923 cases in 2019 and 850 cases in 2018. There were 800 cases of child abuse reported from January to April, including five cases of infanticide. Nonprofit organizations assessed the actual number of abused children as probably much higher. In April Minister of Justice Lima publicly called on authorities at all levels to do more to combat child abuse. On August 19, several municipal and regional governments agreed to increase their budget allocations to combat child abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 14 for girls and 16 for boys. Minors’ parents or guardians must approve marriages between adolescents younger than 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Conviction for commercial sexual exploitation of children is punishable with 15- to 20-year prison sentences but remained a serious problem. The law also prohibits child pornography, punishable with sentences of 10- to 15-years’ imprisonment.

The penalty for statutory rape of an adolescent age 14 to 17 is three to six years’ imprisonment. The penalty for having sex with a child younger than age 14 is 20 to 25 years’ imprisonment, “even if there is no use of force or intimidation and consent is alleged.”

Institutionalized Children: UNICEF reported in 2015 (the most recent information available) that 20,000 to 32,000 minors lived in shelters after their parents abandoned them. Child advocacy organizations reported abuse and negligence in some government-run shelters. The La Paz Department Social Work Service confirmed that of the country’s 380 shelters, including centers for abuse survivors, orphans, and students, only 30 had government accreditation for meeting minimal standards.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish population numbered fewer than 500. There were no reports of anti-Semitism.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The law requires access for wheelchair users to all public and private buildings, duty-free import of orthopedic devices, and a 50 percent reduction in public transportation fares for persons with disabilities. The law also requires communication outlets and government agencies to offer services and publications in sign language and braille. The law stipulates that persons with “serious and severe” disabilities are entitled to government payments of 250 bolivianos ($36) per month. The law requires both public and private institutions to employ a certain percentage of workers with disabilities. The government issued registration cards to persons with disabilities so they could collect benefits, including free access to health services.

The government did not effectively enforce these provisions. Architectural and infrastructure barriers prohibited access in most urban areas for individuals with physical disabilities. Official action was rarely taken to investigate, prosecute, and punish those responsible for violence against persons with disabilities.

In January the human rights ombudswoman filed a complaint with the national police authority after police used pepper spray on persons with disabilities who were protesting COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. According to the complaint, the officers prevented the delivery of blankets, clothing, water, diapers, and other items that were essential to the protesters.

Secondary schools reported that many students with disabilities stopped attending classes during the COVID-19 pandemic because they could not attend virtual classes. They either lacked internet access or their disability prevented them from following lessons on a computer.

In April the ombudswoman reported 13 universities did not comply with disability laws. More than 100 persons reported they were unable to complete their undergraduate studies because colleges failed to provide accommodations required by law.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Although the law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS, pervasive discrimination persisted. Ministry of Health authorities reported discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS was most severe in indigenous communities, where the government was less able to diagnose cases, either because persons were less willing to be tested or the government lacked the resources to reach individuals in remote areas.

Activists reported discrimination forced persons with HIV to seek medical attention outside the country.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

On February 6, a 19-year-old transgender woman, Alessandra (last name withheld by authorities), was found strangled to death in the city of Cochabamba in a boarding house where she worked as a sex worker. On May 5, police reported they had arrested a suspect in the case. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) activists in Cochabamba reported that criminal proceedings were underway. Andres Mallo, spokesman for the LGBTQI+ NGO Diverse Organization, reported that in the past five years there had been 60 criminal cases involving violence against LGBTQI+ persons but only one conviction. LGBTQI+ activists pointed to a persistent failure by local authorities to investigate killings and other crimes perpetrated against the LGBTQI+ community.

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The law allows transgender individuals to update their name, gender marker, and photograph to reflect their gender identity on all legal identification cards and birth certificates. Nonetheless, transgender activists stated most of the transgender community was forced to turn to commercial sex to earn a living due to discrimination in the job market and unwillingness on the part of employers to accept their identity documents and professional licensures. Activists reported police targeted transgender individuals who were sex workers.

LGBTQI+ persons faced overt discrimination in the workplace, at school, and when seeking to access government services, especially in health care, despite laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Transgender individuals remained particularly vulnerable to abuse and violence. Older LGBTQI+ persons faced high rates of discrimination when attempting to access health-care services. There were no legal mechanisms in place to transfer power of attorney to a same-sex partner.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the freedom of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, and the right to strike. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. The constitution provides for protection of general strikes and solidarity strikes and for the right of any working individual to join a union. The law protects the right to strike but stipulates that a strike may not be indefinite. According to legal experts, this stipulation was in reaction to health-care workers threatening to strike for an indefinite amount of time. As a result of the ruling, health-care workers may strike but must organize themselves in shifts to avoid putting the general population at risk.

Workers may form a union in any private company of 20 or more employees, but the law requires that at least 50 percent of the workforce be in favor. The law requires that trade unions register as legal entities, obtain prior government authorization to establish a union, and confirm its elected leadership. The law permits only one union per enterprise and allows the government to dissolve unions by administrative fiat. The law also requires that members of union executive boards be citizens. The labor code prohibits most public employees from forming unions, including the military, police, and other public security forces. Some public-sector workers (including teachers, transportation workers, and health-care workers) were legally unionized and actively participated without penalty as members of the Bolivian Workers’ Confederation, the country’s chief trade union federation.

The National Labor Court handled complaints of antiunion discrimination but took one year or more to issue rulings. The court ruled in favor of discharged workers in some cases and required their reinstatement. Union leaders stated problems had often been resolved or were no longer relevant by the time the court ruled. The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws, and penalties were not commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination.

The ineffectiveness of labor courts and the lengthy time to resolve cases and complaints limited freedom of association. Moreover, the 20-worker threshold for forming a union proved an onerous restriction, since an estimated 72 percent of enterprises had fewer than 20 employees.

On July 11, the Departmental Federation of Oil Workers of Santa Cruz brought a freedom of association complaint to the International Labor Organization (ILO). The ILO did not make further details on the case publicly available.

Labor inspectors may attend union meetings and monitor union activities. Collective bargaining and voluntary direct negotiations between employers and workers without government participation were common. Most collective bargaining agreements were restricted to addressing wages.

On September 22, Armin Lluta, a vocal government critic and the leader of the coca growers’ union known as Adepcoca, disappeared and was found the next day, bloody and beaten but alive on the side of a road. During his disappearance a rival coca growers leader, Arnold Alanez, took over the union’s facilities with public support from Minister of Government Eduardo del Castillo and Minister of Rural Development Remmy Gonzalez, although the government lacked an official role in the union’s organization, as experts noted. Lluta publicly held the government responsible for his ordeal.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, yet they remained serious problems. Ministry of Labor officials were not effective in enforcement efforts or provision of services to victims of forced labor. Penalties were not commensurate with those for analogous crimes, such as kidnapping. The ministry held workshops to educate vulnerable workers of their rights, levied penalties against offending employers, and referred cases of suspected forced labor to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution.

Men, women, and children were victims of sex trafficking and forced labor in domestic servitude, mining, ranching, and agriculture. Forced criminality continued to be a problem; media outlets reported cases of children forced to commit crimes such as robbery and drug production, and others were exploited in forced begging. Indigenous populations were especially vulnerable to forced labor in the agriculture sector and to deceptive employment opportunities that may amount to forced labor in neighboring countries.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. Ministry of Labor inspectors were responsible for identifying situations of child labor and human trafficking for the purposes of forced child labor. When inspectors suspected such situations, they referred the cases to the municipal offices of the child and adolescent advocate for further investigation in coordination with the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The law states that work should not interfere with a child’s right to education and should not be dangerous or unhealthy. By law dangerous and unhealthy work includes work in sugarcane and Brazil nut harvesting, mining, brickmaking, hospital cleaning, selling alcoholic beverages, and working after 10 p.m., among other conditions.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for authorizing work activity for adolescents older than 14 who work for a third-party employer. The ministry is responsible for identifying such cases through inspections and referring them to the offices of the child and adolescent advocates.

Municipal governments, through their respective offices of the child and adolescent advocates, are responsible for enforcing child labor laws, including laws pertaining to the minimum age and maximum hours for child workers, school completion requirements, and health and safety conditions for children in the workplace. The municipal offices of the child and adolescent advocate must answer a request for an underage work permit within 72 hours. Reports indicated that up to 15 percent of municipalities lacked an Office of the Child Advocate, and many more were reported to lack sufficient resources and the capacity to perform their mandate and raise awareness of children’s rights and parents’ obligations under the law.

The government did not effectively enforce the law, and penalties were not commensurate with those for analogous crimes, such as kidnapping. In 2020 the country made moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The number of inspectors was insufficient to deter violations, although Labor Ministry officials stated inspectors conducted investigations throughout the year and referred cases for prosecution. Ministry officials did not have statistics on the number of children they had removed from hazardous situations, nor did they provide detailed information on the penalties for violation of child labor laws or the effectiveness of such penalties.

The ministry collaborated with the Inter-American Development Bank to implement a program that identifies and employs unemployed parents who have children in the workforce. A ministry official stated that while there were varying reasons why children as young as 10 were subjected to work, one main reason was because their parents could not find steady employment. This program sought to secure jobs for underemployed parents on the condition their children stop working. The ministry also provided the parents’ salaries for the first three months to avoid burdening the businesses that provided employment.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws and regulations prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, sex, gender, disability, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases, or social status. Penalties were not commensurate with analogous laws related to civil rights, such as election interference. The government did not effectively enforce the law in all sectors, and discrimination with respect to employment and occupation occurred. Women in governmental positions and female politicians faced high levels of political violence and harassment, according to Coordinadora de la Mujer, a network of domestic nonprofit organizations that advocated for women’s rights. Civil society leaders reported credible instances of employment discrimination against indigenous peoples, women, Afro-Bolivians, persons with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQI+ community. By law employers found using discriminatory practices must offer restitution to affected employees, but no cases were reported.

Formal-sector labor laws provide women with maternity benefits, breastfeeding hours, permission to work fewer hours, and more holidays than their male counterparts. Critics contended these gender-based laws encouraged companies to give preference to men in hiring.

While the minimum wage law treats men and women equally, women generally earned less than men for equal work. Antidiscrimination laws were not uniformly or effectively implemented to protect women from harassment and political violence (see also section 3, Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups). The law stipulates the official workweek for women is eight hours shorter than it is for men, prohibits women from working at night (with exceptions), and prohibits women from performing tasks that are “dangerous, unhealthy, heavy, or that harm their morals or good customs.” Low-wage workers engaged in domestic service were predominantly women. Approximately 40 percent of them received a salary below the national minimum wage and worked without a contract, health insurance, or other relevant benefits. A July 2020 report by UN Women highlighted the increased vulnerability of domestic workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both in terms of economic vulnerability from quarantine measures and wage loss, and to health vulnerabilities if they commuted to work.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The monthly minimum wage was greater than the government’s official poverty income. The World Bank estimated that for fiscal year 2018, approximately 35 percent of the population lived below the poverty line.

The law mandates rest periods and requires premium pay for work beyond a standard workweek. For men the official workweek is 48 hours, and the workday is eight hours. For women the law sets a 40-hour workweek and prohibits women from working at night. The law stipulates a minimum of 15 days of annual leave. Penalties for violating wage and hour laws were not commensurate with those for similar crimes such as fraud. The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. The law mandates that the standards apply uniformly to all industries and sectors. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and may initiate sanctions. The government did not effectively enforce the law.

Occupational Safety and Health: The Ministry of Labor’s Bureau of Occupational Safety has responsibility for the protection of workers’ health and safety, but penalties for violations of occupational safety and health (OSH) laws were not commensurate with those for similar crimes such as negligence. The law mandates that the standards apply uniformly to all industries and sectors. Inspections for OSH were conducted by the same inspectors under the same authorities as wage and hour laws. The number of inspectors was insufficient to provide effective workplace inspection.

A national tripartite committee of business, labor, and government representatives was responsible for monitoring and improving OSH standards and enforcement. The Ministry of Labor maintained offices for worker inquiries, complaints, and reports of unfair labor practices and unsafe working conditions, but it was unclear if the offices were effective in regulating working conditions.

The law prohibits dismissing employees for removing themselves from work conditions they deem hazardous and provides for the Ministry of Labor to mandate the employees be rehired following an inspection.

Informal Sector: Workers in informal part-time and hourly jobs did not have labor protections. Many companies and businesses preferred workers hired on an hourly or part-time basis to avoid paying required maternity and pension benefits. According to labor law experts, the informal sector constituted approximately 65 to 75 percent of the economy. These experts claimed labor regulations meant to protect employees in effect promoted the large informal sector, because the regulations reportedly resulted in employers not hiring full-time employees due to the higher costs their employment entailed.

Civil society leaders and media reported Chinese companies employed workers in substandard conditions. NGOs documented the growing role of Chinese companies, which expanded their presence in the mining, hydrocarbon, and infrastructure sectors since 2010. There were also allegations that Chinese companies brought in prisoners from China to work in exchange for their eventual freedom.

On September 7, a total of 250 employees of the China State Construction Engineering Corporation working on the San Jose de Chiquitos-San Ignacio de Velasco road project went on strike because they alleged the company abused many of their rights. The strikers claimed the company failed to provide adequate medical attention and overtime and transportation pay, as required by law. Strikers also protested “deplorable” housing conditions at construction sites. They alleged the company crammed employees into small, tin facilities that were hot and lacked ventilation. Those who lived offsite claimed they were ferried to the campsite in crammed trucks, “worse than animals.” Conditions described by the workers could amount to forced labor.

Costa Rica

Executive Summary

Costa Rica is a constitutional republic governed by a president and a unicameral legislative assembly directly elected in multiparty elections every four years. In 2018 voters elected Carlos Alvarado of the Citizen’s Action Party as president during a second round of elections. All elections were considered free and fair.

The country has no military forces. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the 13 agencies that have law enforcement components, including the judicial branch’s Judicial Investigative Organization. The Ministry of Public Security is responsible for the uniformed police force, drug control police, border police, air wing, and coast guard. The Immigration Office is responsible for the immigration police. The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation supervises the traffic police, the Ministry of Environment supervises park police, and the Ministry of Justice manages the penitentiary police. Several municipalities manage municipal police forces. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports of isolated instances where members of the security forces committed abuses.

There were no reports of significant human rights abuses.

The government had mechanisms in place to identify and punish officials who may commit human rights abuses.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: On June 14, judicial authorities searched the Presidency, the Ministry of Public Transportation, and the National Road Commission, among other sites, as part of an investigation in a high-profile corruption case related to several highway construction projects. The owners of two of the construction companies were initially detained and released on bail but later were arrested as a preventive measure. A presidential advisor and the head of the road commission, both of whom were under investigation, resigned. The National Assembly appointed an ad hoc committee to investigate the case.

During the year the Attorney General’s Office indicted cement businessman Juan Carlos Bolanos and former legislator Victor Morales-Zapata for influence peddling and bribery in two cases related to the 2017 high-profile corruption scandal known locally as the “Cementazo.”

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ombudsman’s Office reviews government action or inaction that affects citizens’ rights and interests. The ombudsman is accountable to the National Assembly, which appoints the person to a four-year term and funds office operations. The ombudsman participates in the drafting and approval of legislation, promotes good administration and transparency, and reports annually to the National Assembly with nonbinding recommendations. International institutions and nongovernmental organization observers recognized the Ombudsman’s Office as an independent and effective instrument for promoting human rights.

A special committee of the National Assembly studies and reports on problems relating to the violation of human rights, and it also reviews bills relating to human rights and international humanitarian law.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, and it provides penalties from 10 to 18 years in prison for rape. The judicial branch generally enforced the law effectively.

The law prohibits domestic violence and provides measures for the protection of domestic violence victims. Criminal penalties range from 10 to 100 days in prison for aggravated threats and up to 35 years in prison for aggravated homicide, including sentences of 20 to 35 years for persons who kill their partners. The government enforced the laws effectively.

Violence against women remained a serious problem, and as of May the government reported that 29 women had been killed, including four killed by a partner or spouse. On May 14, the president signed a reform to the Law on Criminalization of Violence Against Women to expand the protections available to victims of violence, including to those who are in informal relationships, engaged to be married, divorced, and separated. On August 23, the president signed a reform to the law, which includes the concept of femicide in other contexts.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and educational institutions, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security generally enforced this prohibition. The government enforced the law effectively. The law imposes penalties ranging from a letter of reprimand to dismissal, with more serious incidents subject to criminal prosecution.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

According to human rights experts, problems related to access of reproductive health services remained for lesbian and bisexual, indigenous, and Afrodescendent women, and women with disabilities.

There were some barriers to access contraception. The COVID-19 pandemic especially affected vulnerable population’s access to sexual and reproductive health. A study by the UN Population Fund reported the country may have regressed by as much as five years with respect to access to short-term contraception caused by the lack of access to health services, either due to pandemic-related isolation measures, caregiving tasks that fall mainly on women (which increased during the pandemic), or lack of information. On May 5, health authorities announced that the public health system included emergency contraception as a service, according to a guideline published on April 16; previously, emergency contraception was provided only to victims of rape.

Some social barriers adversely affected access to skilled health care providers during pregnancy and childbirth. Women in rural areas and indigenous women did not always have access to health care during childbirth due to geographic isolation. Some women had difficulty accessing prenatal care. Government regulations state that all pregnant women, including undocumented migrants and asylum seekers, have access to health services. In practice, however, refugees and asylum seekers reported that access to health services and reproductive health management services was difficult. Refugee and migrant advocates stated that this population only qualified for public health services if they were minors, visibly pregnant, or facing a life-threatening emergency, but some individuals reported being denied services even in emergency situations.

The government provided some access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. The government does not allow abortion for survivors of rape or sexual violence. Human rights experts identified problems such as revictimization and access to antiretroviral therapy.

On October 11, the National Institute for Women and the UN Population Fund presented a guide made for the indigenous territories of Talamanca to raise awareness regarding the importance of preventing pregnancies in girls and adolescents. During the year the birth rates of girls and adolescents within the Talamanca region surpassed the national average by 17 per 1,000.

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men; however, the law restricts women’s ability to work the same hours as men or in sectors deemed dangerous. The law prohibits discrimination against women and obligates the government to promote political, economic, social, and cultural equality. The law requires that women and men receive equal pay for equal work. The government enforced the laws effectively, although an official study reported a pay gap of 13 percent for highly skilled jobs, which remained largely male dominated.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution establishes that the country is a multiethnic and multicultural nation. The government enforced the law effectively. On August 10, the president signed a law establishing affirmative hiring policies for persons of African descent.

Indigenous Peoples

Land ownership continued to be a problem in most indigenous territories. The law protects reserve land as the collective, nontransferable property in 24 indigenous territories; however, 38 percent of that land was in nonindigenous hands.

On March 22, the president participated in a meeting with indigenous leaders to find ways to streamline processes in favor of a plan for the recovery of indigenous territories, designed to comply with the 1977 indigenous law obligating the return of land to indigenous communities. The government put embargoes on properties owned by nonindigenous individuals located in indigenous territories. A few embargoed properties were in the southern region that in the past suffered violent incidents, including the killing of two activists over land ownership.

On August 25, Judge Jean Carlos Cespedes Mora issued an eviction order against a community of indigenous women in the Cabecar territory of China Kicha, in favor of the nonindigenous individual Danilo Badilla Roman. Indigenous leaders and activists denounced this ruling, stating that the registry of state information showed the land had the official annotation of “property located in indigenous territory” and that according to the indigenous law, nonindigenous persons “may not rent, lease, buy or in any other way acquire lands or farms included within these reserves,” and “any transfer or negotiation of lands or improvements of these in indigenous reserves, between indigenous and nonindigenous, is absolutely null.” Badilla’s property deeds were granted in 2019, long after the 1977 indigenous law was passed.

Indigenous women faced social and political obstacles to participate in local governance and to hold leadership positions in social organizations. The board of directors of the National Indigenous Commission comprised seven members, but only one of them was female.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is obtained from birth within the country’s territory or can be derived if either parent is Costa Rican. Birth registration was not always automatic, and migrant children were especially at risk of statelessness since they did not have access to legal documents to establish their identity if their parents did not seek birth registration for them.

Child Abuse: The autonomous National Institute for Children (PANI) reported violence against children and adolescents continued to be a concern, but there was no marked increase in the number of cases of child violence or abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age of marriage is 18. The law establishes penalties for sex with minors and prohibits child marriage. The crime carries a penalty of up to three years in prison for an adult having sex with a person younger than age 15, or younger than 18 if the age difference is more than five years.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes the commercial sexual exploitation of children and provides sentences of up to 16 years in prison for violations. The law provides for sentences of two to 10 years in prison for statutory rape and three to eight years in prison for child pornography. The law establishes a statute of limitations of 25 years for sexual crimes against minors. The minimum age of consensual sex is 18 years. The country was a destination for child sex tourism.

Institutionalized Children: The Ombudsman’s Office issued a series of recommendations to PANI, which included a recommendation to design shelters for children according to international standards. These recommendations were a result of the Ombudsman Office’s 2020 plan to conduct random inspections as a follow-up measure to reduce overcrowding in PANI shelters. The judicial investigation continued in the 2020 case of allegations of abuse of children in a PANI-operated shelter. PANI representatives reported they took immediate actions to guarantee the protection of the nine victims and opened a disciplinary procedure against the workers while the judicial investigation progressed.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish Zionist Center estimated there were between 3,000 and 3,500 Jewish persons in the country. There were isolated reports of anti-Semitic comments on social media.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. The law establishes that persons with disabilities can access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The law also establishes a right to employment for persons with disabilities and sets a hiring quota of 5 percent of vacant positions in the public sector. On May 28, the president signed two executive orders that seek to assure employment for persons with disabilities by facilitating enforcement of a quota for positions in the public sector and by promoting employment in the private sector. The government did not effectively enforce the law.

Although the law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, the government did not enforce this provision, and many buildings remained inaccessible to persons with disabilities. The Ombudsman’s Office reported that the poor condition of ramps, lack of priority seating, and the height of steps continued to be reasons for complaints. The report also noted that government officials did not sanction transportation providers for these violations. The government policy on education and the national plan for higher education aimed to increase educational opportunities for students with disabilities. According to an August complaint by a student with disabilities, the University of Costa Rica was not accessible to students with disabilities. The student’s complaint noted that he was not able to enroll in a required course for two years because the university would not provide an interpreter. The Ombudsman’s Office investigated the complaint and recommended a change to the method of requesting interpreters for deaf students at the university.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Although the law prohibits discrimination based on HIV/AIDS in health care, housing, employment, and education, some discrimination was reported.

Labor discrimination towards HIV patients continued; some persons reported losing their jobs due to discrimination, their deteriorating health, or both, although the problem was not widespread. The government took no concrete steps to combat discrimination based on HIV/AIDS status despite having adopted a national strategic plan on HIV and AIDS (2016-21).

On February 10, the Ombudsman’s Office cut funding to an HIV containment project. In reaction to this announcement, 20 civil society organizations and an estimated 40 persons protested outside of the Ombudsman’s Office to demonstrate support for the HIV project.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

No law explicitly prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. Discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited by a series of executive orders and workplace policies but not by national laws.

There were cases of discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation, ranging from employment, police abuse, and access to education and health-care services. LGBTQI+ individuals experienced discrimination within their own families due to their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex characteristics.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The government respected these rights. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. Unions must register, and the law provides a deadline of 15 days for authorities to reply to a registration request. The law permits foreign workers to join unions but prohibits them from holding positions of authority within the unions, except for foreign workers who are married to citizens of the country and have legally resided in the country for at least five years.

The labor code stipulates that at least 50 percent of the workers in an enterprise must vote to support a strike. The law, however, adds that even if there is no union at the enterprise or if the union lacks the support of 50 percent of the workforce, a strike may be initiated if 35 percent of the workers call for a vote by secret ballot. The law restricts the right to strike for workers in services designated as essential by the government, including in sectors such as oil refineries and ports that are not recognized as essential services under international standards. The law regulates strikes, including a prohibition on strikes by workers in nine essential public services, and allows employers to suspend the pay of public-service workers who are on strike.

The law also permits two other types of worker organizations unique to the country: “solidarity associations,” legal entities recognized by the constitution that have both management and employee membership and serve primarily to administer funds for severance payments; and “permanent committees,” enterprise-level bodies made up of three workers elected to negotiate “direct agreements” with employers. Both entities may coexist and share membership with labor unions. The law also requires that permanent committee members be elected freely by secret ballot without intervention of the employer.

The law requires employers to initiate the bargaining process with a trade union if more than one-third of the total workforce, including union and nonunion members, requests collective bargaining, but the law also permits direct bargaining agreements with nonunionized workers. The law establishes a scope of implementation and procedures for negotiations. The law prohibits solidarity associations from representing workers in collective bargaining negotiations or in any other way that assumes the functions or inhibits the formation of trade unions. Although public-sector employees are permitted to bargain collectively, the Supreme Court held that some fringe benefits received by certain public employees were disproportionate and unreasonable, and it repealed sections of collective bargaining agreements between public-sector unions and government agencies, thus restricting this right in practice. A court’s decision ratified the ceiling of 12 years for severance pay when an employee is terminated.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of individual rights, such as discrimination. While the law establishes sanctions (fines and fees) for infractions, only the judiciary has the authority to apply such sanctions. The amount of fines and fees is determined by the severity of the infraction and is based on the minimum wage. The law requires labor claims to be processed within two years and sets up a special summary procedure for discrimination claims. The law also provides labor union members protections against discrimination based on labor affiliation and special protections via special expedited proceedings.

Freedom of association and collective bargaining were generally respected. Labor unions asserted that solidarity associations set up and controlled permanent committees at many workplaces, which in turn conducted negotiations and established direct agreements. Labor unions also asserted that employers sometimes required membership in a solidarity association as a condition for employment. To the extent that solidarity associations and permanent committees displaced trade unions, they affected the independence of workers’ organizations from employers’ influence and infringed on the right to organize and bargain collectively. In recent years the International Labor Organization (ILO) reported an expansion of direct agreements between employers and nonunionized workers and noted its concern that the number of collective bargaining agreements in the private sector continued to be low when compared with a high number of direct agreements with nonunionized workers.

In some instances employers fired employees who attempted to unionize. The Ministry of Labor reported nine allegations of antiunion discrimination from January to July. There were reports some employers also preferred to use “flexible,” or short-term, contracts, making it difficult for workers to organize and collectively bargain. Migrant workers in agriculture frequently were hired on short-term contracts through intermediaries (outsourcing), faced antiunion discrimination and challenges in organizing, and were often more vulnerable to labor exploitation. Although migrant workers outside the agriculture sector were able to unionize, they were not able to participate as board members.

The ILO noted no trade unions operated in the country’s export-processing zones and identified the zones as a hostile environment for organizing. Labor unions asserted that efforts by workers in export-processing zones to organize were met with illegal employment termination, threats, and intimidation and that some employers maintained blacklists of workers identified as activists.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government effectively enforced the law. The law establishes criminal penalties for trafficking in persons crimes that were commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping. Forced labor of migrants occurred in the agricultural and domestic service sectors. As of July the Attorney General’s Office reported a conviction of trafficking for labor exploitation involving a minor victim.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The child and adolescence code prohibits labor of all children younger than age 15 without exceptions, including the worst forms of child labor; it supersedes the minimum working age of 12 established in the labor code. Adolescents between the ages of 15 and 18 may work a maximum of six hours daily and 36 hours weekly. The law prohibits night work and overtime for minors. The law prohibits children younger than age 18 from engaging in hazardous or unhealthy activities and specifies a list of hazardous occupations. The government generally enforced child labor laws effectively in the formal sector but not in the informal sector.

Child labor occurred primarily in the informal economy, especially in the agricultural, commercial, and industrial sectors. The worst forms of child labor occurred in agriculture on small third-party farms in the formal sector and on family farms in the informal sector. Forced child labor reportedly occurred in some service sectors, such as agriculture, construction, fishing, street vending, and domestic service, and some children were subject to commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children). Judicial authorities reported that criminal organizations took advantage of vulnerable minors to involve them in illicit activities. The majority of those involved were male teenagers younger than age 18. Authorities suspected that adults used children to transport or sell drugs; some of these children may have been trafficking victims.

While the Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing and taking administrative actions against possible violations of, or lack of compliance with, child labor laws, the Prosecutor’s Office intervenes in cases regarding the worst forms of child labor. The government effectively enforced the law. As with other labor laws, the authority to sanction employers for infractions lies solely with the judiciary, and the law requires labor inspectors to initiate legal cases with the judiciary after exhausting the administrative process. The amount of fines and fees is determined by the severity of the infraction and is based on an equation derived from the minimum wage. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous crimes, such as kidnapping.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor and List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The laws and regulations prohibit discrimination in employment and occupation regarding race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, language, HIV-positive status, or other communicable diseases status. The labor code prohibits discrimination based on age, ethnicity, gender, religion, race, sexual orientation, civil status, political opinion, nationality, social status, affiliation, disability, labor union membership, or economic situation. The government effectively enforced these laws and regulations, and penalties were commensurate to laws related to civil rights, such as election interference. The Labor Ministry reported seven cases of discrimination from January to July, five cases of discrimination based on health conditions and two cases based on gender. The ministry continued to implement a gender-equality perspective into labor inspections to identify areas of vulnerability. The COVID-19 pandemic affected women’s employment, with women suffering the greatest number of job losses (see section 6, Women). As of November the unemployment rate for women reached 19.8 percent, compared with 18 percent before the pandemic started.

On August 10, the president signed an affirmative action law in favor of persons of African descent. This law sets a hiring quota of 7 percent of vacant positions in the public sector and creates educational programs for persons of African descent.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to persons with disabilities and the LGBTQI+ population. Discrimination against migrant workers from Nicaragua occurred, and there were reports of instances of employers using threats of deportation to withhold their wages.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The wage council of the Ministry of Labor sets the minimum wage scale for the public and private sectors twice a year. Monthly minimum wages were above the poverty line. The national minimum wage applied to both Costa Rican and migrant workers. The law sets workday hours, overtime remuneration, days of rest, and annual vacation rights. Workers generally may work a maximum of eight hours a day or 48 hours weekly. Workers are entitled to one day of rest after six consecutive days of work, except in the agricultural sector, and annual paid vacations. The law provides that workers be paid for overtime work at a rate 50 percent above their stipulated wage or salary. Although there is no statutory prohibition against compulsory overtime, the labor code stipulates the workday may not exceed 12 hours, except in the agricultural sector when there is “imminent risk of harm…to the harvest” when work cannot be suspended and workers cannot be substituted. While women may work in the same industries as men, there are legal restrictions regarding limits on women’s working hours and tasks. Women and children are prohibited from working in jobs deemed dangerous by law. The government effectively enforced minimum wage and overtime laws mainly in the formal sector, and penalties were commensurate with those for similar labor infractions.

The Ministry of Labor’s Inspection Directorate is responsible for labor inspection, in collaboration with the Social Security Agency and the National Insurance Institute. The directorate employed labor inspectors, who investigated all types of labor violations. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to deter violations. According to the Ministry of Labor, inspections occurred both in response to complaints and at the initiative of inspectors. The directorate stated it could visit any employer, formal or informal, and inspections were always unannounced.

The Labor Ministry generally addressed complaints by sending inspection teams to investigate and coordinate with each other on follow-up actions. As with other labor laws, inspectors cannot fine or sanction employers who do not comply with laws on acceptable conditions of work; rather, they investigate and refer noncompliance results to labor courts. The process of fining companies or compelling employers to pay back wages or overtime was habitually subject to lengthy delays.

The Ministry of Labor generally enforced minimum wages effectively in the San Jose area but less effectively in rural areas, particularly where large numbers of migrants were employed, and in the large informal sector. The ministry publicly recognized that many workers, including in the formal sector, received less than the minimum wage, mainly in the agricultural sector. Although the inspection directorate conducted inspections in workplaces during the rating period, the directorate was not able to reach the number of in-person inspections conducted before the pandemic.

Observers expressed concern about exploitative working conditions in fisheries, small businesses, and agricultural activities. Unions also reported systematic violations of labor rights and provisions concerning working conditions, overtime, and wages in the export-processing zones. Labor unions reported overtime pay violations, such as nonpayment of wages and mandatory overtime, were common in the private sector and particularly in export-processing zones and agriculture.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government maintains a dedicated authority to enforce occupational safety and health (OSH) standards. The OSH standards are appropriate for the main industries in the country, according to the National Council of Occupational Safety and Health. The Labor Ministry’s National Council of Occupational Health and Safety is a tripartite OSH regulatory authority with government, employer, and employee representation. Penalties for violations of OSH laws were commensurate with those for similar labor infractions, although the government did not enforce these standards effectively in either the formal or the informal sectors.

The responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remained with the Labor Ministry’s OSH experts and not the worker. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardizing their employment. According to the Labor Ministry, this is a responsibility shared by the employer and employee. The law assigns responsibility to the employer, including granting OSH officers access to workplaces, but it also authorizes workers to seek assistance from appropriate authorities (OSH or labor inspectors) for noncompliance with OSH workplace standards, including risks at work. The responsibility for occupational accidents and diseases falls on the insurance policy of the employer.

There were reports that agricultural workers, particularly migrant laborers in the pineapple industry, worked in unsafe conditions, including exposure to hazardous chemicals without proper training. The national insurance company reported 54,525 cases of workplace-related illnesses and injuries and 80 workplace fatalities from January to June.

Informal Sector: Almost 44 percent of the workforce operated in the informal economy during the second quarter of the year. Workers in the informal sector were not covered by wage, hour, and OSH laws and inspections, nor were they enrolled in the public health service. Most informal workers worked in the service sector, which includes commerce, domestic service, transportation, storage, accommodation, and food services.

Crimea

Read A Section: Crimea

Ukraine

In February 2014 Russian forces entered Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and occupied it militarily. In March 2014 Russia announced the peninsula had become part of the Russian Federation following a sham referendum that violated Ukraine’s constitution. The UN General Assembly’s Resolution 68/262 on the Territorial Integrity of Ukraine of March 27, 2014; Resolution 76/179 on the Situation of Human Rights in the Temporarily Occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, Ukraine, of December 16, 2021; and Resolution 76/70 on the Problem of the militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov of December 9, 2021, called on states and international organizations not to recognize any change in Crimea’s status and affirmed the commitment of the United Nations to recognize Crimea as part of Ukraine. In 2014 Ukraine’s parliament (Verkhovna Rada) adopted a law attributing responsibility for human rights violations in Crimea to the Russian Federation as the occupying state. The United States does not recognize the attempted annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation. Russian law has been applied in Crimea since the Russian occupation and purported “annexation” of the peninsula. For detailed information on the laws and practices of the Russian Federation, see the Country Report on Human Rights for Russia.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

A local occupation authority installed by the Russian government and led by Sergey Aksyonov as “prime minister” of the “state council of the Republic of Crimea” administers occupied Crimea. The “state council” is responsible for day-to-day administration and other functions of governing. Russia’s September 17-19 nationwide Duma elections included seats allocated for purportedly annexed Crimea, a move widely condemned by the international community and that contravened the Ukrainian constitution.

Russian government agencies, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Federal Security Service, Federal Investigative Committee, and Office of the Prosecutor General, applied and enforced Russian law in Crimea as if it were a part of the Russian Federation. The Federal Security Service also conducted security, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism activities and combatted organized crime and corruption. A “national police force” operated under the aegis of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Russian authorities maintained control over Russian military and security forces deployed in Crimea. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by Russia or Russia-led “authorities”; forced disappearances by Russia or Russia-led “authorities”; torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by Russia or Russia-led “authorities,” including punitive psychiatric incarceration; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions and transfer of prisoners to Russia; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the occupation judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists, censorship, and criminal libel laws; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental and civil society organizations; severe restrictions of religious freedom; restrictions on freedom of movement; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation, including unelected governments and elections that were not genuine, free, or fair; serious acts of corruption; serious restrictions on or harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of national/racial/ethnic minority groups or indigenous people, including Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

Corruption: There were multiple reports of systemic rampant corruption among Crimean “officeholders,” including through embezzlement of Russian state funds allocated to support the occupation. For example on April 6, occupation authorities detained the head of the investigation department of the “Ministry of Internal Affairs” in Simferopol on suspicion of accepting a bribe of 7.5 million rubles ($103,000). He allegedly agreed to accept the bribe in exchange for ending an investigation of a suspect in a criminal case.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Most independent human rights organizations ceased activities in Crimea following Russia’s occupation. Occupation authorities refused to cooperate with independent human rights NGOs, ignored their views, and harassed human rights monitors and threatened them with fines and imprisonment.

Russia continued to deny access to the peninsula to international human rights monitors from the OSCE and the United Nations.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Domestic violence remained a serious problem in occupied Crimea; however, occupation authorities’ restrictions on human rights organizations made it difficult to assess its prevalence.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of occupation authorities.

Women in Crimea accessed reproductive health care through services funded by the Russian occupation authorities, private insurance, and NGO programs; however, no Ukrainian or international monitors had access to Crimea, making it difficult to assess the state of reproductive health care there.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Since the beginning of the occupation, authorities singled out Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians for discrimination, abuse, deprivation of civil liberties and religious and economic rights, and violence, including killings and abductions (also see sections 1.a.-1.d., 1.f., 2.a., 2.b., and 2.d.). The August UN secretary-general’s report noted, “The activities of the Mejlis remained prohibited in Crimea.”

There were reports that Russian occupation authorities openly advocated discrimination against Crimean Tatars. Occupation authorities harassed Crimean Tatars for speaking their language in public and forbade speaking it in the workplace. There were reports teachers prohibited schoolchildren from speaking Crimean Tatar to one another. Crimean Tatar was the sole instruction language for 119 classes. Crimean Tatars were prohibited from celebrating their national holidays and commemorating victims of previous abuses (see section 2.b.).

Occupation authorities also restricted the use of Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian flags and symbols (see section 2.a.).

Russian occupation authorities prohibited Crimean Tatars affiliated with the Mejlis from registering businesses or properties as a matter of policy.

Ethnic Ukrainians also faced discrimination by occupation authorities. Ukrainian as a language of instruction was removed from university-level education in Crimea. According to the Crimean Resource Center, schools in Crimea no longer provided instruction in Ukrainian. In 2017 the International Court of Justice ruled on provisional measures in proceedings brought by Ukraine against the Russian Federation, concluding unanimously that the Russian Federation must “ensure the availability of education in the Ukrainian language.”

Occupation authorities did not permit churches linked to ethnic Ukrainians, in particular the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, to register under Russian law. Occupation authorities harassed and intimidated members of these churches and used court proceedings to force the OCU to leave properties it had rented for years. On August 8, occupation authorities forcibly entered an OCU church in Balky while a religious service was underway and forced the priest to end the service. Occupation authorities filed administrative charges against the priest for allegedly conducting unlawful missionary activities.

The largest OCU congregation in Crimea closed in 2019 following a ruling by occupation authorities that its cathedral located in Simferopol must be “returned to the state.” The church was shut down after repeated refusals by authorities to allow it to register.

Children

Birth Registration: Under both Ukrainian law and laws imposed by Russian occupation authorities, either birthplace or parentage determines citizenship. Russia’s occupation and purported annexation of Crimea complicated the question of citizenship for children born after February 2014, since it was difficult for parents to register a child as a citizen with Ukrainian authorities. Registration in the country requires a hospital certificate, which is retained when a birth certificate is issued. Under the occupation regime, new parents could only obtain a Russian birth certificate and did not have access to a hospital certificate. The Ukrainian government instituted a process whereby births in Crimea could be recognized with documents issued by occupation authorities.

Anti-Semitism

According to Jewish groups, the Jewish population in Crimea was approximately 10,000 to 15,000, with most living in Simferopol. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts; however, Russian occupation authorities’ restrictions on human rights groups limited their ability to properly monitor anti-Semitic acts on the peninsula.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Human rights groups and LGBTQI+ activists reported that most LGBTQI+ individuals fled Crimea after Russia’s occupation began. Those who remained lived in fear of abuse due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. The UN Human Rights Council’s independent expert received reports of increased violence and discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community in Crimea as well as the use of homophobic propaganda employed by the occupation authorities. LGBTQI+ persons reportedly were frequently subjected to beatings in public spaces and entrapped by organized groups through social networks. The council’s report noted, “This environment created an atmosphere of fear and terror for members of the community, with related adverse impacts on their mental health and well-being.”

According to the HRMMU, NGOs working on access to health care among vulnerable groups found it impossible to advocate for better access to health care for LGBTQI+ persons due to fear of retaliation by occupation authorities.

Occupation authorities prohibited any LGBTQI+ group from holding public events in Crimea. LGBTQI+ individuals faced increasing restrictions on their exercise of free expression and peaceful assembly, because occupation authorities enforced a Russian law that criminalizes the so-called propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors (see section 6 of the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia).

Section 7. Worker Rights

Occupation authorities announced the labor laws of Ukraine would not be in effect after 2016 and that only the laws of the Russian Federation would apply.

Occupation authorities imposed the labor laws and regulations of the Russian Federation on Crimean workers, limited worker rights, and created barriers to the exercise of freedom of association, collective bargaining, and the ability to strike. Trade unions are formally protected under Russian law but limited in practice. As in both Ukraine and Russia, employers were often able to engage in antiunion discrimination and violate collective bargaining rights. Pro-Russian authorities threatened to nationalize property owned by Ukrainian labor unions in Crimea. Ukrainians who did not accept Russian passports faced job discrimination in all sectors of the economy. Only holders of Russian national identification cards were allowed to work in “government” and municipal positions. Labor activists believed that unions were threatened in Crimea to accept “government” policy without question and faced considerable restrictions on advocating for their members.

Although no official data were available, experts estimated there was growing participation in the underground economy in Crimea. Child labor in amber and coal mining remained a problem in Crimea.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Executive Summary

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a centralized constitutional republic. Voters popularly elect the president and the lower house of parliament (National Assembly). Following a two-year delay, presidential, legislative, and provincial elections were held in December 2018. In January 2019 the National Independent Electoral Commission declared Felix Tshisekedi the winner of the 2018 presidential election. The 2018 election was marred by irregularities and criticized by some observers, including the Council of Bishops, which stated the results did not match those of their observation mission. The 2019 inauguration of President Tshisekedi was the first peaceful transfer of power in the country’s history.

The primary responsibility for law enforcement and public order lies with the Congolese National Police, which operates under the Ministry of the Interior. The National Intelligence Agency, overseen by the presidency, is responsible for internal and external intelligence. The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the military intelligence service operate under the control of the Ministry of Defense and are primarily responsible for external security. In reality, however, these forces focus almost exclusively on internal security. The presidency oversees the Republican Guard, and the Ministry of Interior oversees the Directorate General for Migration, which, together with the Congolese National Police, are responsible for border control. Civilian authorities exercised limited control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.

Conflict between government military forces and the more than 15 significant and cohesive illegal armed groups continued in the eastern provinces of the country. In response the president announced a state of siege in the Ituri and North Kivu Provinces on May 6, which parliament repeatedly extended and remained in effect at year’s end. The state of siege transfers powers from civilian to military authorities, provides for increased police powers, extends the jurisdiction of military courts to try civilian criminal offenses, restricts certain fundamental rights and freedoms, and suspends immunity from prosecution for certain elected officials (including national and provincial deputies and senators).

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; forced disappearances; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious abuses in conflict, including reportedly unlawful or widespread civilian harm, enforced disappearances or abductions, torture and physical abuses or punishment, and unlawful recruitment or use of child soldiers by illegal armed groups; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, censorship, and the existence of criminal libel laws; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic and intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child, early, and forced marriage, and other harmful practices; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting persons with disabilities, members of national, racial, and ethnic minority groups, and indigenous people; crimes involving violence or threat of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons; and existence of the worst forms of child labor.

The government took some steps to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses or engaged in corruption, although there was impunity for many such abuses. Authorities often did not investigate, prosecute, or punish those who were responsible, particularly at higher levels. The government convicted some officials on counts of murder, rape, torture, arbitrary detention, and corruption, and sometimes punished security force officials who committed abuses.

Illegal armed groups continued to commit abuses in the eastern provinces and the Kasai region. Additionally, large-scale killings by ISIS-Democratic Republic of the Congo persisted in parts of North Kivu and Ituri. These abuses included unlawful killings, disappearances, torture, destruction of government and private property, and gender-based violence, which was widespread even in areas with no armed conflict, by both government and armed groups. Illegal armed groups also recruited, abducted, and retained child soldiers and subjected children and adults to forced labor. The government took military action against illegal armed groups and investigated and prosecuted some armed group members and the state security forces for human rights abuses.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Local NGOs blamed these levels of corruption, in part, to the lack of a law providing for access to public information.

In 2020 President Tshisekedi created the Agency for the Prevention and Fight against Corruption (APLC). A special service under the Office of the President, the APLC is responsible for coordinating all government entities charged with fighting corruption and money laundering, conducting investigations with the full authority of judicial police, and overseeing transfer of public corruption cases to appropriate judicial authorities. The Platform for the Protection for Whistleblowers in Africa asserted that APLC’s record was mixed, without visible results.

Corruption: Corruption by officials at all levels as well as within state-owned enterprises continued to deprive state coffers of hundreds of millions of dollars per year. In January RFI reported the General Inspectorate of Finance (IGF) alleged that three billion Congolese francs ($1.5 million) was embezzled every month at the Ministry for Primary and Secondary Education through a scheme diverting public funds to pay thousands of fictitious teachers. RFI also noted that the director of the agency supervising the teachers’ pay process and the inspector general of the Ministry of Primary, Secondary, and Vocational Education were arrested, following the issuance of a report by the IGF. In March Radio Okapi reported that the Appellate Court of Kinshasa-Gombe sentenced the inspector general for primary, secondary, and vocational education, Michel Djamba, and the head of the Teachers’ Payroll and Control Service, Delphin Kampayi, to 20 years of hard labor for embezzling public funds.

In June independent outlet Actualite.cd quoted a public finance expert as saying that there was not adequate accounting for more than 80 percent of the country’s public spending, which potentially encourages embezzlement. A former minister of the economy said in local press that the country’s budgetary accounting system was weakened by “numerous notable deficiencies.” The head of the IGF, Jules Alingete, was quoted by independent radio station Top Congo FM as saying that at least 70 percent of public funds were routinely misappropriated. Alingete added that only one-third of the 146 billion Congolese francs ($73 million) invested in road construction work in Kinshasa was actually used to support the construction effort. Alingete also alleged that over-invoicing that occurred during the development of the Bukangalonzo agro-industrial park cost the government 400 billion Congolese francs ($200 million).

In June local media reported that a group of researchers working for the Goma Volcano Observatory (OVG) submitted a memorandum to President Tshisekedi alleging the embezzlement of OVG’s staff salaries since 2013, the misappropriation of funds disbursed by the government, and the “recruitment” of a plethora of fictitious employees. According to the representatives of the observatory’s staff, the government misappropriated international donations worth more than six million euros (seven million dollars).

In August local press reported that the IGF took legal action against the governor of Kongo Central Atou Matubuana for misappropriating more than six billion Congolese francs (three million dollars) earmarked to finance several “special intervention funds.” The IGF also accused Matubuana and some of his aides of embezzling more than 10 billion Congolese francs (five million dollars) earmarked for civilian and military services.

On August 27, authorities arrested and jailed former minister of health Eteni Longondo for the misappropriation of funds intended to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The IGF reported the minister failed to account for more than two billion Congolese francs (one million dollars) allocated by the World Bank.

In November Reuters reported that the Constitutional Court dismissed the case of former prime minister Augustin Matata Ponyo, stating that its jurisdiction only covered sitting, not former, prime ministers. According to Jeune Afrique, Ponyo was suspected of involvement in an embezzlement scheme concerning a 570 billion Congolese francs ($285 million) agrifood project, and the IGF concluded more than 90 percent of that amount was embezzled. The Sentry, an investigative and policy team that tracks war criminals’ money in Africa, published a report alleging that a brother of former president Joseph Kabila benefitted from embezzled Congolese money, using it to buy expensive properties abroad.

The law prohibits the FARDC from engaging in mineral trade, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. Criminal involvement by some FARDC units and IAGs included protection rackets, extortion, and theft. The illegal trade in minerals was both a symptom and a cause of weak governance. It illegally financed IAGs and individual elements of the SSF and sometimes generated revenue for traditional authorities and local and provincial governments. A 2019 report from the International Peace Information Service (IPIS), a Belgian research group, determined that in the trading hub of Itebero, North Kivu Province, traders paid $10 per ton of coltan to the president of the local trading association, who distributed this money to the FARDC, ANR, and Directorate General for Migration. Individual FARDC commanders also sometimes appointed civilians to manage their interests at mining sites covertly.

Artisanal mining remained predominantly informal, illicit, and strongly linked to both armed groups and certain elements of the FARDC. Government officials were often complicit in the smuggling of artisanal mining products, particularly gold, into Uganda and Rwanda. A 2020 UN Group of Experts report highlighted Ituri Province as a major source of smuggled gold found in Uganda. The UN Group of Experts also reported that FARDC soldiers regularly accepted bribes from artisanal miners to access the Namoya site, which was owned by the Banro Mining Corporation. Mining experts and law enforcement officers interviewed in the report described natural resource-related crimes as “quick cash” and explained that violators often bribed law enforcement agencies to secure safe transit of illegal goods.

Between 2017 and 2020, IPIS visited 920 artisanal mine sites in the East and observed illegal interference (by either the FARDC or an IAG) at 363 sites. At 251 sites, IPIS reported FARDC interference, mostly by illegal taxation, but also by creating a trade monopoly over both mineral and nonmineral products. IPIS research noted that for armed interference, FARDC units were the main culprits at 66 percent of the affected mining sites (198 out of 265) in the 2016-18 sample, while 46 percent of the mines with armed interference were controlled or frequented by different armed groups, especially Raia Mutomboki, NDC-R, Mai Mai Yakutumba, and Mai Simba.

In conflict areas both IAGs and elements of the SSF regularly set up roadblocks and ran illegal taxation schemes. In 2019 IPIS published data showing state agents regularly sold tags meant to validate clean mineral supply chains. The validation tags, a mechanism designed to reduce corruption, labor abuses, trafficking in persons, and environmental destruction, were regularly sold to smugglers.

As in previous years, a significant portion of the country’s enacted budget included off-budget and special account allocations that were not fully published. These accounts shielded receipts and disbursements from public scrutiny. Eight parastatal organizations held special accounts and used them to circumvent the government’s tax collection authorities. “Special accounts” are, in theory, subjected to the same auditing procedures and oversight as other expenditures; however, due in large part to resource constraints, the Supreme Audit Authority did not always publish its internal audits, or in many cases published them significantly late. Under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) standard of 2016, the government is required to disclose the allocation of revenues and expenditures from extractive companies. In 2019 the EITI board noted the country had made meaningful progress in its implementation of the 2016 standard but also expressed concern regarding persistent corruption and mismanagement of funds in the extractive sector. During the year the EITI published Gecamines’ contracts with third parties but did not fully publish contract annexes containing contract values and mining royalties’ allocations.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Elements of the SSF continued to kill, harass, beat, intimidate, and arbitrarily arrest and detain domestic human rights advocates and domestic NGO workers, particularly when the NGOs reported on or supported victims of abuses by the SSF or reported on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the East. IAGs repeatedly targeted local human rights defenders for violent retribution when they spoke out against abuses. Representatives from the Ministry of Justice and the ANR met with domestic NGOs and sometimes responded to their inquiries.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government cooperated at times with investigations by the United Nations and other international bodies but was not consistent in doing so. For example, the government refused to grant the United Nations access to certain detention centers, particularly at military installations such as military intelligence headquarters. The government and military prosecutors cooperated with the UN team supporting investigations related to the 2017 killing of two UN experts, Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan, in Kasai Central Province. After a four-month recess, the trial involving more than 50 witnesses and suspects resumed on November 2.

Government Human Rights Bodies: During the year the National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) published reports and made public statements on prison conditions, the Universal Periodic Review, and human rights violations during the COVID-19 state of emergency. It also held human rights training sessions for magistrates, visited detention centers, conducted professional development workshops for human rights defense networks in the interior, and followed up on complaints of human rights abuses from civilians.

Both the CNDH and the Human Rights Ministry continued to lack sufficient funding for overhead costs and full-time representation in all 26 provinces. A CNDH spokesperson reported the organization had received less funding than in previous years, hindering the implementation of programs in the provinces.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law on sexual violence criminalizes rape of all persons, but the law was not often enforced. Rape and other forms of gender-based violence were widespread throughout the country, even in areas without armed conflict. The survivors seldom reported this for cultural and social reasons, and the perpetrators were rarely punished. Rape was also common and used as a tactic in areas of armed conflict. The legal definition of rape does not include spousal rape or intimate partner rape. It also prohibits extrajudicial settlements (for example, a customary fine paid by the perpetrator to the family of the survivor), but such practices still occurred. Both international organizations and local NGOs reported that female rape survivors were sometimes forced to pay a fine to return to their families and to gain access to their children. Husbands often divorced wives who were survivors. The law also prohibits forced marriage, but it continued to take place. The law allows survivors of sexual violence to waive appearance in court and permits closed hearings to protect confidentiality. The minimum penalty prescribed for conviction of rape is a prison sentence of five years, and courts sometimes imposed such sentences in rape convictions in the infrequent instances when these crimes came to trial. Some prosecutions occurred for rape and other types of sexual violence.

IAGs frequently used rape as a tactic of conflict (see section 1.g.). The UNJHRO reported that from January through June, Nyatura combatants committed the greatest number of human rights abuses, attacking the civilian population and committing sexual violence against 39 women, one man, and 22 children. Local NGOs and international organizations reported that sexual mutilation was often used as a tactic of conflict, with rapists in conflict using weapons or sharp objects to torture women. The UNJHRO reported that in January in Kalembe, Nyatura Coalition des Mouvements pour le Changement (CMC) combatants raped two women, killed one man, and wounded another with a machete. The FARDC was also responsible for sexual violence, especially in conflict areas, where the UNJHRO documented 72 sexual violations against women.

Government agents raped and sexually abused women and girls during arrest and detention, as well as during military action, according to UNJHRO reporting (see sections 1.a. and 1.c.). While sexual violence was a problem throughout the country, most cases took place in areas affected by internal conflict. The PNC continued its nationwide campaign, with support from MONUSCO, to eliminate gender-based violence by the SSF, including through the fight against impunity and the protection of survivors and witnesses. The campaign to operationalize the national action plan to combat gender-based violence was not fully funded by October, and few activities had taken place.

In analyzing the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls, UNICEF found increased exposure to and increased incidence of sexual and gender-based violence with fewer persons on the streets after curfews. Women in Lubumbashi reported increased break-ins and sexual assaults during the COVID-19 curfew, some by armed men in uniform. Seven women told Agence France Presse in January that they had suffered a break-in and been raped during curfew hours in Lubumbashi.

As noted below, persons with disabilities faced high rates of gender-based violence and suffered health consequences as a result. LGBTQI+ persons were targeted by particular forms of gender-based violence, including “corrective” rape. Most survivors of rape did not pursue formal legal action due to insufficient resources, lack of confidence in the justice system, family pressure, and fear of subjecting themselves to humiliation, reprisal, or both.

UNFPA’s most recent statistics indicated that 37 percent of women had experienced intimate partner violence during the previous 12 months. Among the barriers to reporting for women who had been sexually abused, UNICEF noted in an April report on sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) that women said they would not confide in anyone if they were sexually abused, and that they feared diminished marriage prospects and community gossip after surviving this crime.

The law does not provide any specific penalty for domestic violence despite its prevalence. Although the law considers assault a crime, police rarely intervened in perceived domestic disputes. There were no reports judicial authorities took action in cases of domestic or spousal abuse.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: UNICEF and MONUSCO attributed some abuses of children, including sexual violence against young girls, to harmful traditional and religious practices. Perpetrators allegedly targeted children because they believed harming children or having sex with virgins could protect against death in conflict or give them better luck with mining, and children often died because of these rapes.

Accusations of witchcraft often targeted women and resulted in killings, including some by burning. The NGO Association of Women in the Media said it had recorded 324 accusations of witchcraft from June through September. An administrative chief for Kabare Territory, South Kivu, said those killed were mainly women, more than 60 of whom had been designated as witches by individuals who claimed they could detect witches. A report by the Permanent Consultative Framework for Congolese Women (CAFCO) recorded more than 37 women killed by mobs following witchcraft accusations in South Kivu, Ituri, Kinshasa, and Kongo Central during the year. CAFCO called on national authorities to punish those responsible and ensure the safety of the victims.

In September the Guardian reported that eight women had been accused of witchcraft and burned to death or lynched in South Kivu during the month. An attorney quoted in the Guardian noted that a 2014 provincial law forbidding mob justice had not been applied.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment occurred throughout the country. The law prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates a minimum sentence of one year if convicted, but there was little or no effective enforcement of the law.

In late September several international news organizations reported allegations of SEA by World Health Organization (WHO) staff members working on the Ebola efforts in the country during the 2018-20 epidemic. The United Nations reported that the perpetrators included both Congolese and foreign staff, with an investigation by a WHO commission identifying 83 persons involved in the abuse, 21 confirmed as WHO employees. A New York Times article noted that women reported being asked to provide sex in exchange for a job or even to get water. The BBC reported that local women described being ambushed in hospitals, where they were raped. A Reuters article noted 29 women reported they were raped, with some forced by their abusers to have abortions. The United Nations noted that the report described how managers refused to consider verbal reports. In late October Reuters reported that more women had reported SEA, and the WHO issued a plan to prevent such misconduct by humanitarian workers.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The law recognizes the rights of all couples and individuals of reproductive age to benefit from information and education on contraception and to have free access to reproductive health services, although many couples and individuals lacked the means and access to information.

In 2020 according to UNFPA, 28 percent of women and girls ages 15 to 49 obtained access to modern contraception after requesting it, while reproductive health needs for 21 percent of women were unmet. The prevalence of modern methods of contraception was approximately 12 percent.

According to the Guttmacher Institute’s selected sexual and reproductive health indicators between 2007 and 2018, 32 percent of respondents’ recent births were unplanned. According to a 2016 study by the Guttmacher Institute, there were 147 unintended pregnancies per 1,000 women ages 15 to 49 in Kinshasa in 2016. The study found that in Kinshasa, 5 percent of women seeking postabortion care after using misoprostol were discharged in good health in less than 24 hours and did not require treatment.

Problems affecting access to family planning and reproductive health services included an inadequate transportation infrastructure, funding shortfalls for procuring adequate quantities of contraceptives, and poor logistics and supply chain management leading to frequent stock shortages. Cultural norms favoring large families; misinformation surrounding contraceptive use, including fear that contraception causes infertility; and especially the population’s general inability to pay for contraceptive services were also barriers.

The adolescent birth rate was 138 per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19. UNICEF reported that 27 percent of girls ages 15 to 19 had been pregnant. In an analysis of the impacts of COVID-19 and its impact on women and girls in the country, UNICEF reported an increase in the use of family planning services, an increase in sexual activity among adolescents, a reduction in antenatal care visits, and an increase in the number of pregnancies and women and adolescents seeking clandestine abortions.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services to survivors of gender-based violence. The provision of emergency contraception was included as part of clinical management of rape, but women could not always access them in time. The services were free and intended to provide a postexposure prophylaxis kit within 72 hours to avoid unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Prominent human rights observers reported, however, that women who went to the police to report rape were often asked to pay for actions needed to investigate and prosecute the crime. The government established mobile clinics for gender-based violence survivors in remote areas. LGBTQI+ survivors reported barriers to accessing emergency care.

According to the 2013-14 Demographic and Health Survey, the maternal mortality ratio was 846 deaths per 100,000 live births, despite sustained high usage of health facilities for deliveries, which suggested a poor quality of health services. Geographic barriers, lack of appropriate equipment, and low health professional capacity also hindered the provision of quality maternal and child health services and led to high maternal mortality and childbirth complications, such as obstetric fistula.

After analyzing the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls, UNICEF noted that school closures and financial difficulties pushed some adolescent girls to engage in transactional sexual relationships. Young women often did not have access to menstrual hygiene, which impacted their ability to attend schools, which often lacked bathrooms and running water. Furthermore, unwed girls who became pregnant were pressured to drop out of school, and young women who become mothers often faced societal stigmas.

Discrimination: The constitution prohibits discrimination based on gender, but the law does not provide women the same rights as men. The law permits women to participate in economic domains without approval of male relatives, provides for maternity care, disallows inequities linked to dowries, and specifies fines and other sanctions for those who discriminate or engage in gender-based violence. Nonetheless, women experienced economic discrimination, and there were legal restrictions on women in employment, including limitations on occupations considered dangerous, but no restrictions on women’s working hours.

In an analysis of the impacts of COVID-19 on women and girls, UNICEF found that women were disproportionately affected by the health and socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 restrictions. Most women worked in the informal sector, and border and market closures limited business opportunities.

According to UNICEF many widows were unable to inherit their late husbands’ property because the law states that in event of a death in which there is no will, the husband’s children, including those born out of wedlock (provided they were officially recognized by the father), rather than the widow, have precedence with regard to inheritance. Since changes in the family law in 2017, women and men receive the same punishments for adultery of “an injurious quality,” but this change was not applied to the criminal law.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution provides that “no one could be discriminated on the basis of his race, ethnic, tribe, cultural or linguistic minority.” Ethnic Twa persons frequently faced severe societal discrimination and had little protection from government officials (see section 1.g.).

Long-standing ethnic tensions also fueled some community violence. The UNJHRO reported the resurgence of interethnic conflict between Twa and Luba communities in Tanganyika Province and noted that conflicts between the Twa and the Bantu in Monkoto, Tshuapa Province, led to violence and casualties. The UNJHRO also reported persistent ethnic conflicts and attacks by the Mai-Mai Bakata Katanga in Lualaba and Haut-Katanga Provinces between January and June. According to MONUSCO, hate speech was spreading on social media among local communities in the city of Uvira and surrounding areas.

From January through June the UNJHRO documented 278 human rights violations and abuses committed in the context of the intercommunal conflict in the Haut Plateau covering parts of the territories of Uvira, Fizi, and Mwenga. The UNJHRO reported this conflict pitted the Banyamulenge community against the Bafuliiru, Bayindu-Banyindu, and Babembe communities and was characterized by the involvement of multiple armed groups and militias organized in ethnically based alliances, notably combatants from the Ngumino armed group and the Twigwaneho and Android militias, linked to the Banyamulenge community, and Mai Mai, and Biloze Bishambuke combatants linked to the Bafuliiru, Banyindu, and Babembe communities.

In May a journalist from the magazine New Yorker reported that when he was traveling in Kolwezi, a mining town in the South, staff at a casino run by and frequented by foreigners told him that Black Africans were not allowed to gamble. The journalist further wrote that the treatment of Congolese artisanal miners by their foreign bosses in the mining areas evoked that of the colonial period.

On September 27, two lawyers from South Kivu filed a complaint with the public prosecutor and the auditor general of the FARDC alleging acts amounting to ethnic cleansing in Minembwe between 2018 and 2020. The complaint, filed on behalf of 71 Banyamulenge living in the highlands of South Kivu, alleged that armed Mai Mai militia from the Fuliiro, Bembe, and Nyindu ethnic groups killed, raped, tortured, and kidnapped Banyamulenge and also burned houses and farm buildings and looted cattle, with the indifference or complicity of the FARDC. The complaint also denounced hate speech against Banyamulenge, sometimes propagated by well-known politicians and social-media influencers.

Uvira mayor Kiza Muhato banned an anti-Banyamulenge march after it had been postponed from October 12 to October 15, leading organizers to cancel it again. The organizers planned the demonstration in support of the comments made by former minister of rural development Justin Bitakwira calling for Bafuliiro youth to take up arms to defend their ancestral land from Banyamulenge “invaders.”

On December 9, FARDC major Joseph Rugenerwa Kaminzobe was accompanying a patient in an ambulance carrying four other FARC soldiers headed to the Fizi General Referral Hospital when demonstrators in Lweba village pulled him from the ambulance, assaulted him, and burned him alive, allegedly for his Banyamulenge ethnicity. According to local sources, the demonstrators were a mix of young persons called “Bazalendo” (Swahili for “patriot”) and Mai Mai rebels protesting against the killing of three civilians during an attack by the Banyamulenge-linked Ngumino militia two days earlier. The deputy prime minister of interior and security launched an investigation and maintained the government was committed to combating hate speech. A FARDC delegation arrived in Lweba on December 11 to begin the investigation.

Indigenous Peoples

Estimates of the country’s indigenous population (Twa, Baka, Mbuti, Aka, and others believed to be the country’s original inhabitants) varied greatly, from 250,000 to two million. Societal discrimination against these groups was widespread, and the government did not effectively protect their civil and political rights. Most indigenous persons took no part in the political process, and many lived in remote areas. Fighting in the East between IAGs and the SSF, expansion by farmers, and increased trading and excavation activities caused displacement of some indigenous populations. Political, social, and economic discrimination and exclusion of Pygmy, an ethnic community locally referred to as Twa, drove conflict throughout the country, most notably in Tanganyika Province, and around Kahuzi-Biega National Park in South Kiva Province.

While the law stipulates indigenous populations receive 10 percent of the profits gained from use of their land, this provision was not enforced. In some areas surrounding tribes kidnapped and forced indigenous persons into slavery, sometimes resulting in ethnic conflict (see section 1.g.). Indigenous populations also reported high instances of rape by members of outside groups, which contributed to HIV/AIDS infections and other health complications.

Children

Birth Registration: The law provides for the acquisition of citizenship through birth within the country or from either parent being of an ethnic group documented as having been in the country in 1960. According to UNICEF, the government registered approximately 25 percent of children born in some form of medical facility, but only 14 percent children had a birth certificate. Without a birth certificate, which provides proof of where a child was born and the identity of the child’s parents, a child lacked any proof of entitlement to a nationality and was therefore left at risk of statelessness. Lack of registration rarely affected access to government services.

Education: The constitution provides for tuition-free and compulsory primary education. Despite President Tshisekedi’s policy to provide free primary education, the government was unable to offer it consistently in all provinces. Public schools generally expected parents to contribute to teachers’ salaries. These expenses, combined with the potential loss of income from their children’s labor while they attended class, rendered many parents unable or unwilling to enroll their children. UNICEF reported that approximately 7.6 million children ages five to 17 were out of school, and half of girls ages five to 17 did not attend school. For the vast majority of schools, the lack of funding led to decreased access and quality of learning, rendering the policy heavily politicized and at times unpopular.

Secondary school attendance rates for girls were lower than for boys due to financial, cultural, or security reasons, including early marriage and pregnancy for girls. There were reports of teachers pressuring girls for sexual favors in return for higher grades. Educational obstacles for children with disabilities included inaccessible infrastructure; exams provided in formats not accessible to everyone; and a lack of awareness among teachers, students, and staff in addition to the reluctance to include children with disabilities.

Many of the schools in the East were dilapidated and closed due to chronic insecurity. Schools were sometimes targeted in attacks by IAGs. Parents in some areas kept their children from attending school due to fear of IAG forcible recruitment and use of child soldiers. In March the Child Protection Section of MONUSCO documented one attack against a school and another against a hospital in Mabelenge, Irumu Territory, both perpetrated by ADF combatants in Ituri Province. The school was destroyed, and the hospital was looted. In April approximately 30 schools closed due to insecurity in Ikobo, North Kivu. Radio Okapi reported that most schools in Beni Territory were closed in May because of rampant insecurity and the subsequent displacement of students and teachers from troubled areas.

Child Abuse: Although the law prohibits all forms of child abuse, it regularly occurred. The constitution prohibits parental abandonment of children accused of sorcery. Nevertheless, parents or other care providers sometimes abandoned or abused such children, frequently invoking “witchcraft” as a rationale. The law provides for the imprisonment of parents and other adults convicted of accusing children of witchcraft. Authorities did not implement the law.

Many churches conducted exorcisms of children accused of witchcraft. These exorcisms involved isolation, beating and whipping, starvation, and forced ingestion of purgatives. According to UNICEF some communities branded children with disabilities or speech impediments as witches. This practice sometimes resulted in parents’ abandoning their children.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: While the law requires consent and prohibits marriage of boys and girls younger than age 18, many marriages of underage children took place, in part due to continued social acceptance. The constitution criminalizes forced marriage. Courts may sentence parents convicted of forcing a child to marry to up to 12 years’ hard labor and a fine. The penalty doubles when the child is younger than age 15; however, enforcement was limited.

Provisions in the law do not clarify who has standing to report forced marriage as a crime or if a judge has the authority to do so. UNFPA reported that child marriage was widespread, with approximately 37 percent of girls married by age 18 and 10 percent of women ages 20 to 24 having been married before the age of 15. Dowry payments greatly incentivized underage marriage, as parents forcibly married daughters to collect dowries or to finance dowries for sons. UNFPA further reported that some parents considered child marriage a way to protect a girl from sexual violence, reasoning that her husband would be responsible for her safety.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age of consensual sex is 18 for both men and women, and the law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of anyone younger than age 18. The penal code prohibits child pornography, with imprisonment of 10 to 20 years for those convicted. The law criminalizes child sex trafficking, with conviction carrying penalties ranging from 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment and a heavy fine. In April UNICEF published a report on SEA that highlighted persistent social beliefs that undermine protection for child survivors. For example, UNICEF noted in the report that adolescent girls who were in exploitative relationships and received money in exchange for sex were not perceived to be children. According to the report, sexual violence against children was considered more serious and more likely to be reported than sexual violence against adults, as it was commonly believed that child victims do not bear the same stigma as adult victims.

There were also reports child soldiers, particularly girls, faced sexual exploitation (see section 1.g.).

Displaced Children: According to the 2007 Rapid Assessment, Analysis, and Action Planning Report, the most recent data available, there were an estimated 8.2 million orphans, children with disabilities, and other vulnerable children in the country. Of these, 91 percent received no external support and only 3 percent received medical support. In 2019 the NGO Humanium estimated 70,000 children lived on the streets, with at least 35,000 in Kinshasa. The families of many of these children forced them out of their homes, accusing them of witchcraft and causing misfortune. Humanium noted that street children were unsupervised with no access to food, education, or shelter and other basic necessities, circumstances that left them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by adults and law enforcement personnel who forced them into illegal criminal activity. Law enforcement officials sometimes recruited street children to disrupt political protests and cause public disorder, making children liable for injury or death.

In February UNICEF reported that there were an estimated three million child IDPs in the country, largely as a result of violence in the east of the country (see section 2.e.).

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The country had a very small Jewish population, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities and requires the state to promote their participation in national, provincial, and local institutions. The constitution states all persons should have access to national education. The law prohibits private, public, and semipublic companies from discriminating against qualified candidates based on disability. The government did not enforce these provisions effectively, and persons with disabilities often found it difficult to obtain employment, education, and other government services. Many persons with disabilities, consequently, resorted to begging. Conflict in several areas of the country left many thousands of former military and civilians with significant disabilities. Disability groups reported extensive social stigmatization, including children with disabilities being expelled from their homes and accused of witchcraft. Families sometimes concealed their children with disabilities due to shame.

No legislation mandates access to government buildings or services for persons with disabilities, including access to health care, information, communication, transportation, the judicial system, or other state services. While persons with disabilities may attend public primary and secondary schools and have access to higher education, no reasonable accommodations are required of educational facilities to support their full and equal inclusion. Schools for children with hearing impairments, for example, were private and generally in poor condition. According to the Ministry of People Living with Disabilities, less than 1 percent of children with disabilities attended school. In a study done between 2019 and 2020 with support from UNESCO, the ministry reported that of 10,000 persons with disabilities in Kinshasa, only 36 percent had some primary school education and 49 percent had no formal education. The government began a program to standardize sign language throughout the provinces due to differences between the signs used in different provinces.

A local NGO Congo Handicap reported in September that women with disabilities were up to four times as likely to be survivors of domestic violence as other women and often did not report abuses due to a lack of awareness of their rights. Persons with disabilities were also frequently survivors of gender-based violence. Congo Handicap also noted in a report published in September that 1,500 women with disabilities in and near the city of Bukavu had survived rape and other forms of sexual violence. Many survivors reported unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections as a result. The NGO reported that the perpetrators were not held to account for the alleged abuses.

Violence against persons with disabilities was a serious problem. Victims often did not report abuses, and when they did, they experienced financial, social, and cultural obstacles to accountability. Often police and other officials who played a role in the judicial system asked victims for money before investigating. The family of a young autistic girl who was raped by a manual laborer in Kinshasa did not have the money to pursue justice. The family then brought the case to the attention of the minister of people living with disabilities, who described how she intervened to ensure the case was brought to trial, which resulted in a six-year prison sentence for the perpetrator.

Frontline Defenders reported that Sinzeri Nabeza Jolie, a prominent human rights defender with a physical disability, was released from detention in January due to deteriorating health after spending four days in detention without being presented to a judge. Jolie is a member of SOS HANDICAP, an organization in South Kivu created by women with disabilities to defend and protect the human rights of women and girls with disabilities. Police had arrested her following a meeting to prepare for a march protesting discrimination against women and girls with disabilities. A Congo Handicap report published in December asserted that the right to access to justice for people with disabilities was not respected. According to the report, persons with disabilities often would not lodge complaints, because their complaints were often not taken seriously and were often either dismissed or not recorded.

Persons with disabilities also encountered many challenges in exercising their rights to participate in civic life. During the 2018 election, for example, persons with visual impairments encountered difficulties trying to use voting machines. Obstacles to voting included a lack of support and information, in addition to an inaccessible physical environment. Many potential voters with physical disabilities were forced to abandon the effort to participate in elections when physical limitations did not permit them to wait in the lines. Additionally, authorities sometimes changed the location of polling places at the last minute, making it difficult for persons with disabilities to reach the new location due to limited accessible transportation.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits discrimination based on HIV status, but social stigma continued.

The Demographic and Health Survey 2013-14 captured a proxy indicator measuring the level of tolerance of respondents towards an HIV-positive person (either family member, businessperson, or teacher) and the necessity of hiding the HIV-positive status of a family member. Of those responding, 72 percent said they were ready to take care of an HIV-positive parent, but only 47 percent expressed willingness to purchase produce from an HIV-positive seller; 49 percent would accept having an HIV-positive teacher with their children, and 26 percent said it would not be necessary to hide the HIV status of a family member.

A 2020 Ministry of Health study conducted in conjunction with WHO and other organizations surveyed those with HIV about stigmatization and discrimination towards them. Approximately 40 percent gave their HIV status as a reason to have moved during the previous 12 months. Nearly 75 percent said they had not lost a job or source of revenue during the previous 12 months due to their HIV status. Fewer than 5 percent said they had been refused health care because they were HIV positive, and 62 percent of respondents said they had read about or discussed the law providing protection for the rights of persons with HIV and AIDs.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

While no law specifically prohibits consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, individuals engaging in public displays of consensual same-sex sexual conduct, such as kissing, were sometimes subject to prosecution under public indecency provisions, which were rarely applied to opposite-sex couples. A local NGO reported authorities rarely took steps to investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who committed abuses against LGBTQI+ persons, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government.

Identifying as LGBTQI+ remained a cultural taboo. LGBTQI+ individuals were subjected to harassment, stigmatization, and violence, including “corrective” rape. Some religious leaders, radio broadcasts, and political organizations played a key role in supporting discrimination against LGBTQI+ individuals.

LGBTQI+ persons in South Kivu Province reported that in 2018 a coalition of revivalist churches in Bukavu published materials characterizing LGBTQI+ persons as acting against the will of God. The publications contributed to a deteriorating environment for LGBTQI+ rights in the area. Advocates in the eastern part of the country reported arbitrary detentions, acts of physical violence, including beatings, being stripped naked, sexual abuse in public settings, and rape. In some cases LGBTQI+ persons were forced by threats of violence to withdraw from schools and other public and community institutions.

In June LGBTQI+ persons who participated in Pride Month activities were subjected to harassment, physical violence, and threats when photographs became public. An NGO supporting LGBTQI+ rights reported receiving hate mail and threats of violence. The NGO reported there was rarely condemnation when LGBTQI+ persons were attacked and that LGBTQI+ individuals faced difficulties pursuing claims of discrimination in employment.

An NGO promoting LGBTQI+ rights claimed other human rights organizations excluded and ostracized LGBTQI+ rights organizations due to their religious beliefs or belief that LGBTQI+ rights do not constitute human rights. One activist reported being explicitly excluded from other meetings of human rights organizations or women’s rights organizations due to her affiliation as an LGBTQI+ activist.

A human rights NGO reported that a gay man was severely beaten by a mob, which included several security force members, after he was lured to meet another man at a local hotel. Human rights activists alleged that some in the mob were members of the Republican Guard. The mob later attacked the man’s house and stole his money, causing the man to go into hiding and to be disowned by his family.

LGBTQI+ activists reported that there were many cases of “corrective” rape against both men and women during the year. When the survivors came to a health clinic for care, they were either rejected for being LGBTQI+ or the staff at the health clinic tried to talk them out of being LGBTQI+.

An influential church, Centre Missionnaire Philadelphie, where several high-ranking politicians attended services, held a seminar with hundreds of participants about the “causes and consequences” of being LGBTQI+, claiming it was immoral.

In July former human rights minister Marie-Ange Mushobekwa, responding to a tweet, wrote that LGBTQI+ persons could “love each other privately” but claimed that representative of foreign governments “will have to walk over the dead bodies of Congolese people to impose such behavior in public or legalize it.”

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution and law provide all workers, including those in both the informal and formal sectors, except top government officials, judges, and SSF members, the right to form and join trade unions and to bargain collectively. The law also provides for the right of most workers to conduct legal strikes. It is against the law, however, for police, army, directors of public and private enterprises, and domestic workers to strike. The law gives administrative authorities the right to dissolve, suspend, or deregister trade union organizations. It also grants unions the right to conduct activities without interference, although it does not define specific acts of interference. In the private sector, a minimum of 10 employees is required to form a union within a business, and a single business may include members of more than one union. Foreigners may not hold union office unless they have lived in the country for at least 20 years, a length of time deemed excessive by the International Labor Organization (ILO). Collective bargaining requires a minimum of 10 union committee members and one employer representative; union committee members report to the rest of the workforce. In the public sector, the government sets wages by decree after holding prior consultations with unions.

Union committees are required to notify company management of a planned strike, but they do not need authorization to strike. The law stipulates unions and employers shall adhere to lengthy compulsory arbitration and appeal procedures before unions initiate a strike. At times, however, workers strike without adhering to these lengthy compulsory arbitration and appeal procedures, thus engaging in a “wildcat” strike. Generally, the committee delivers a notice of strike to the employer. If the employer does not reply within 48 hours, the union may strike immediately. If the employer chooses to reply, negotiations, which may take up to three months, begin with a labor inspector and ultimately continue in the Peace Court. At times employees provide minimum services during negotiations, but this is not a requirement. If negotiations are taking place, public-sector workers must continue to provide “vital services.” Unless unions notify employers of a planned strike, the law prohibits striking workers from occupying the workplace during a strike, and an infraction of the rules on strikes may lead to incarceration of up to six months with compulsory prison labor. This rule was not enforced.

The law prohibits discrimination against union employees and requires employers to reinstate workers dismissed for union activities, but the associated penalties were not adequate to deter violations. Penalties were not commensurate with penalties for other civil rights violations. Workers have access to a labor court for discrimination issues, but no cases were brought during the year. Judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals. The law considers those who have worked for a minimum of three continuous months as “workers” and thereby protected by relevant labor law. Unless they are part of a union, most workers in agricultural activities and artisanal mining, domestic and migrant workers, and workers in export-processing zones were unfamiliar with their labor rights and did not often seek redress when employers breached applicable labor laws.

The government recognizes 12 private-sector and public-enterprise unions at the national level, as well as 15 unions that represented the public administration sector. The public administration sector has a history of organizing, and the government negotiates with sector representatives when they present grievances or go on strike. Of the 15 national unions that represented the public administration sector, five accounted for most workers. Several unions had strong ties to government or parties, and some reported interference with union affairs and elections.

Workers exercised their right to strike. Workers in the public and private sectors held strikes regarding unpaid salaries. In October medical doctors and nurses delivered notice prior to striking, but teachers in Catholic schools who went on strike refused to teach after the government had accepted demands to negotiate, leading some observers to call the strike illegal. Local media reported that PNC officers occasionally violently broke up these protests. In June health-care workers including hospital administrative staff went on strike to demand a salary increase.

In July local press reported that Kinshasa taxi drivers started a strike to protest harassment by local police and transport agents, with the president of the Association of DRC Drivers declaring that taxi drivers were tired of being arrested or robbed by the police. The strike lasted for one week.

Also in July, Radio Okapi reported that the physicians’ unions SYMECO, SYNAMED, and SYLIMED coordinated to launch a strike following the government’s failure to take their July 10 strike notice into account. The unions noted the authorities’ apparent unwillingness to address grievances ranging from calls for pay raises to complaints regarding physicians’ working conditions and the poor management of the country’s hospitals.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. In small and medium-sized businesses, workers could not properly exercise the right to strike. Government and employers did not respect the right of freedom of association and collective bargaining. Due to lax enforcement of labor regulations and lack of capacity for the General Labor Inspectorate, companies and shops could immediately replace any workers attempting to unionize, bargain collectively, or strike with contract workers to intimidate the workers and prevent them from exercising their rights, despite legal protections. Antiunion discrimination was widespread, particularly in foreign-owned companies. In many instances companies refused to negotiate with unions and negotiated individually with workers to undermine collective bargaining efforts. In the retail sector, strike leaders working for supermarkets were threatened with termination. Unions had an active complaint with the ILO pertaining to past allegations of government interference in union elections.

Despite collective agreements on union dues, employers often did not remit union dues or did so irregularly.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The constitution prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Penalties were commensurate with the penalties for other serious crimes.

In cases of nonpayment of requisite and applicable taxes, the law allows for arrest and compulsory labor as a penalty to enforce payment of the tax debt. The government did not effectively enforce the law.

Forced labor, including forced child labor, regularly occurred throughout the country (see section 7.c.). Violations included bonded labor, domestic servitude, and slavery. In the artisanal mining sector, individuals took on debt from intermediaries and dealers to acquire food, supplies, and mining equipment, often at high interest rates. Miners who failed to provide sufficient ore to pay their debt were at risk of debt bondage. The government continued to try to formalize the artisanal mining sector but did not attempt to regulate the practice.

In the East, IAGs continued to abduct and forcibly recruit men, women, and children to serve as laborers, porters, domestic laborers, and combatants (see section 1.g.). In eastern mining regions, there were reports that armed groups violently attacked mining communities and surrounding villages; held men, women, and children captive; and exploited them in forced labor and sex trafficking. In North Kivu and South Kivu Provinces, some members of FARDC units and IAGs taxed or, in some cases, controlled mining activities in gold, coltan, wolframite, and cassiterite mines. There were no reports of FARDC units forcing persons to work in mines. IAGs sometimes forced local communities to perform construction work and other labor at mine sites. The deputy administrator of Ngungu, Theophile Ndikabuze, told a local news site that the self-proclaimed General Mahachano, a Masisi rebel, continued to recruit young persons for gold trafficking. The government did not enforce laws banning this practice. In the provinces of the Katanga region, the use of force to evict artisanal diggers led to violence and casualties.

Some police arrested individuals arbitrarily to extort money from them (see section 1.d.). There were reports in North and South Kivu Provinces of police forcing those who could not pay to work until they “earned” their freedom.

The government took limited action against those who used forced labor and abducted civilians for forced labor. Following a five-month closure of courts for pandemic restrictions, civilian and military courts resumed investigations and prosecutions of multiple traffickers for cases in which victims were subjected to forced labor, sex trafficking, and domestic servitude. The prosecutions continued through the year. Little if any information existed on the removal of victims from forced labor.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The government prohibits all of the worst forms of child labor. The law sets the minimum age for work at 16, and a ministerial order sets the minimum age for hazardous work at 18. The law also stipulates children may not work for more than four hours per day and restricts all minors from transporting heavy items.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. While criminal courts heard some child labor complaints, it was unclear if these resulted in sentences. Penalties were not commensurate with other serious crimes. The Ministry of Labor has responsibility for investigating child labor abuses but had no dedicated child labor inspection service. Other government agencies responsible for combating child labor include the Ministry of Gender, Family, and Children; Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Social Affairs; and National Committee to Combat the Worst Forms of Child Labor. The Ministry of Mines employed mining inspectors, whose duties include inspecting for child labor at mine sites. The government did not devote adequate support to these agencies, and they conducted no inspections or specialized investigations for child labor during the year.

Child labor, including forced child labor, was prevalent throughout the country. Child labor was most common in the informal sector, including in artisanal mining and subsistence agriculture. According to the Ministry of Labor, children worked in mines and stone quarries and as child soldiers, water sellers, domestic workers, and entertainers in bars and restaurants. Commercial sexual exploitation of children also occurred (see section 6).

Children were also the victims of exploitation in the worst forms of child labor, many of them in agriculture, illicit activities, and domestic work. Children mined diamonds, gold, cobalt, coltan, wolframite, copper, and cassiterite under hazardous conditions. In the mining regions of Haut-Katanga, Kasai-Oriental, Kasai-Central, North Kivu, and South Kivu Provinces, children sifted, cleaned, sorted, transported heavy loads, and dug for minerals underground. In many areas of the country, children between ages five and 12 broke rocks to make gravel.

Parents often used children for dangerous and difficult agricultural labor. Families unable to support their children occasionally sent them to live with relatives who at times treated them as domestic slaves, subjecting them to physical and sexual abuse.

In 2016 the National Labor Committee adopted an action plan to fight the worst forms of child labor; however, as of September it had not been implemented. In 2020 the General Labor Inspectorate issued a plan to conduct a child labor survey and develop a roadmap to review and curb the use of child labor in the rice sector in Kongo Central Province, but no survey was conducted during the year.

Forced child labor was prevalent in the mining sector. The law prohibits violations of child labor laws in the mining sector and imposes fines in cases of violations. Nonetheless, various mining sites, located principally in North Kivu and Haut-Katanga Provinces, employed many child workers. The working conditions for children at these mining sites were poor. Treated as adults, children worked without breaks and without any basic protective measures. According to the civil society organization Leave Kabare to Live (MLKAV), surveys carried out in Kabare territory in South Kivu indicated that more than 70 percent of laborers in stone-mining quarries were minor children, both girls and boys, ages eight to 15.

The mining police and private security forces, including those guarding large-scale mining concessions, reportedly subjected child laborers on artisanal mining sites to extortion and physical abuse.

There was a systematic government effort in conjunction with NGOs to redirect child labor away from mines. The government and the African Development Bank continued a 160 billion Congolese francs ($80 million) project to provide alternative livelihoods for children engaged in the cobalt sector.

The Ministry of Mines prohibits artisanal mines with child labor from exporting minerals; however, the ministry had limited enforcement capacity.

In 2019 the government undertook a five billion Congolese francs ($2.5 million) project to boost the capacity of labor inspectors to prevent children younger than age 18 from engaging in hazardous work in mines. Additionally, in March the Ministry of Mines issued a decree forming an interministerial commission with the Ministry of Labor to inspect child labor in artisanal mines. As of September the commission had yet to act, due primarily to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings , and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, gender, language, or social status. The law does not specifically protect against discrimination in respect of employment and occupation based on religion, age, political opinion, national origin, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV-positive status. Additionally, no law specifically prohibits discrimination in employment of career public-service members. The government did not effectively enforce relevant employment laws, and penalties were not commensurate with other violations of civil rights.

Gender-based discrimination in employment and occupation occurred (see section 6). Although the labor code stipulates men and women must receive equal pay for equivalent work, the government did not enforce this provision effectively. According to the ILO, women often received less pay in the private sector than did men doing the same job and rarely occupied positions of authority or high responsibility. There were legal restrictions on women’s employment in occupations deemed arduous, and women were prohibited from occupying many jobs that require night work. Persons with disabilities, including albinism, and certain ethnicities such as Twa faced discrimination in hiring and access to the worksites.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The government sets regional minimum wages for all workers in private enterprise, with the highest minimum wages applied to the cities of Kinshasa and Lubumbashi. The minimum wage was above the poverty line, but it did not provide a living wage for a worker and family. Most businesses were not in compliance with this minimum wage but faced few penalties.

In the public sector the government sets wages annually by decree and permits unions to act only in an advisory capacity. Certain subcategories of public employees, such as staff members of decentralized entities (towns, territories, and sectors), do not have the right under the law to participate in the wage-setting consultations.

The law defines different standard workweeks, ranging from 45 hours per week to 72 hours every two weeks, for various jobs and prescribes rest periods and premium pay for overtime. The law establishes no monitoring or enforcement mechanism, and employers in both the formal and informal sectors often did not respect these provisions. The law does not prohibit compulsory overtime.

The government did not effectively enforce wage and hour regulations. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar violations and were seldom applied. The Ministry of Labor employed 115 labor inspectors and 71 labor controllers, which was not sufficient to enforce consistent compliance with labor regulations. Labor inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate penalties.

Occupational Safety and Health: The labor code specifies health and safety standards, but they had not been updated in many years.

The government did not effectively enforce health and safety standards in the informal sector, and enforcement was uneven in the formal sector. The Ministry of Mines validation process includes criteria on minimal safety standards. Nonetheless, the law does not allow workers to remove themselves from hazardous situations without putting their employment in jeopardy. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar violations.

Informal Sector: Labor laws apply to the informal sector, but they were rarely applied. Approximately 90 percent of laborers worked in the informal sector in subsistence agriculture, informal commerce or mining, or other informal pursuits, where they often faced hazardous or exploitive working conditions.

In 2015 IPIS estimated there were 300,000 artisanal miners in the 2,000 identified mine sites in the East. It was estimated there were likely an additional 1,000 mine sites that had not been identified. In October seven artisanal gold miners were reported dead and five missing in South Kivu after a landslide caused by torrential rain.

Indonesia

Executive Summary

Indonesia is a multiparty democracy. In April 2019 Joko Widodo (popularly known as Jokowi) won a second five-year term as president. Voters also elected new members of the House of Representatives and the Regional Representative Council, as well as provincial and local legislatures. Domestic and international observers deemed the elections to be free and fair.

The Indonesian National Police is responsible for internal security and reports directly to the president. The Indonesian National Armed Forces, which also report directly to the president, are responsible for external defense and combatting separatism, and in certain conditions may provide operational support to police, such as for counterterrorism operations, maintaining public order, and addressing communal conflicts. Civilian authorities maintained control over security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings by government security forces; torture by police; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary and unlawful interference with privacy; serious abuses in the conflict in Papua and West Papua Provinces, including unlawful civilian harm, torture and physical abuses; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists and religious figures, censorship, and the existence of criminal libel laws; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of racial and ethnic minority groups; crimes involving violence or threats of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and the existence of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.

While the government took steps to investigate and prosecute some officials who committed human rights abuses and corruption, impunity for historic and recent serious human rights abuses and corruption remained a significant concern, especially as some of those implicated in past abuses received promotions, were given public awards and honors, and occupied senior official positions.

Armed conflict between government forces and separatist groups continued in Papua and West Papua Provinces. There were numerous reports of both sides committing abuses against civilians including killings, physical abuse, and destruction of property. The conflict caused the displacement of thousands of residents. Outside Papua and West Papua, there were numerous reports of unknown actors using digital harassment and intimidation against human rights activists and academics who criticized government officials, discussed government corruption, or covered issues related to the conflict in Papua and West Papua.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, but government efforts to enforce the law were insufficient. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. Despite the arrest and conviction of many high-profile and high-ranking officials, including the former ministers of maritime and social affairs, there was a widespread perception that corruption remained endemic. NGOs claimed that endemic corruption was one cause for human rights abuses, with moneyed interests using corrupt government officials to harass and intimidate activists and groups that impeded their businesses.

The Corruption Eradication Commission, national police, the armed forces’ Special Economics Crime Unit, and the Attorney General’s Office may all investigate and prosecute corruption cases. Coordination between these offices, however, was inconsistent and coordination with the armed forces unit was nonexistent. The Corruption Eradication Commission does not have authority to investigate members of the military, nor does it have jurisdiction in cases where state losses are valued at less than IDR one billion ($70,000).

Many NGOs and activists maintained that the Corruption Eradication Commission’s ability to investigate corruption was limited because its supervisory body was selected and appointed by the president and because the commission was part of the executive branch. Commission investigators were sometimes harassed, intimidated, or attacked because of their work.

On May 5, the Corruption Eradication Commission conducted a civics exam for all commission employees as part of a legally mandated transition process to convert commission staff to regular civil service status. Seventy-five employees failed the test, including prominent investigators who had criticized the commission’s leadership and 2019 amendments to the commission’s statute and who were involved in many high-profile investigations, including those of two ministers (see below). On July 15, the national ombudsman concluded the exam was improperly administered and that the commission lacked the legal standing to compel employees to take the exam. NGOs and media reported that the test was a tactic to remove specific investigators, including Novel Baswedan, a prominent investigator who had led a case resulting in the imprisonment of the speaker of the House of Representatives and who had been injured in an acid attack perpetrated by two police officers. On September 30, the commission dismissed 57 of the 75 who failed the test.

On August 30, the commission’s supervisory board determined that the commission Deputy Chairperson Lili Pintauli Siregar was guilty of an ethics violation in her handling of a bribery case involving the mayor of Tanjung Balai, Muhammad Syahrial. The board determined Siregar had inappropriate contact with the subject of an investigation for her own personal benefit and imposed a one-year, 40 percent pay reduction for Siregar for the infraction.

Corruption: The Corruption Eradication Commission investigated and prosecuted officials suspected of corruption at all levels of government. Several high-profile corruption cases involved large-scale government procurement or construction programs and implicated legislators, governors, regents, judges, police, and civil servants. In 2020 the commission recovered state assets worth approximately IDR 152 billion ($10.7 million); it conducted 114 investigations, initiated 81 prosecutions, and completed 111 cases resulting in convictions. The Attorney General Office’s Corruption Taskforce was also active in the investigation and prosecution of high-profile corruption cases.

On March 10, two police generals were convicted and sentenced for taking bribes from Djoko Soegiarto Tjandra, a fugitive from charges of involvement in a Bank Bali debt scandal, to assist him in traveling around the country while a fugitive. Inspector General Napoleon Bonaparte was sentenced to four and one-half years in prison for taking IDR 7.2 billion ($500,000) in bribes; Brigadier General Prasetijo Utomo was sentenced to three and one-half years for taking IDR 1.4 billion ($100,000). On April 5, Tjandra was sentenced to four and one-half years in prison for bribing Bonaparte, Utomo, and a prosecutor.

On July 16, former minister of marine affairs and fisheries Edhy Prabowo was found guilty of accepting bribes from businessmen and misusing his authority to expedite export permits for lobster larvae. Prabowo was sentenced to five years in prison, a substantial fine, and barred from public office for three years after the end of his sentence.

On August 23, former social affairs minister Juliari Peter Batubara was found guilty of accepting IDR 20.8 billion ($1.45 million) in kickbacks related to government food assistance programs created to alleviate hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic. Juliari was sentenced to 12 years in prison, ordered to pay IDR 14.6 billion ($1 million) in restitution, a fine of IDR 500 million ($34,700), and barred from running for public office for four years after the end of his prison term.

According to NGOs and media reports, police commonly demanded bribes ranging from minor payoffs in traffic cases to large amounts in criminal investigations. Corrupt officials sometimes subjected Indonesian migrants returning from abroad, primarily women, to arbitrary strip searches, theft, and extortion.

Bribes and extortion influenced prosecution, conviction, and sentencing in civil and criminal cases. Anticorruption NGOs accused key individuals in the justice system of accepting bribes and condoning suspected corruption. Legal aid organizations reported cases often moved very slowly unless a bribe was paid, and in some cases, prosecutors demanded payments from defendants to ensure a less zealous prosecution or to make a case disappear.

In 2020 the National Ombudsman received 284 complaints related to maladministration in court decisions. From January 1 to October 30, 2020, the Judicial Commission received 1,158 public complaints of judicial misconduct and recommended sanctions against 121 judges. The Judicial Commission reported that from January 4 to April 30, they had received 494 complaints of judicial misconduct.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights organizations generally operated without government restriction, except in Papua and West Papua, investigating and publishing findings on human rights cases and advocating improvements to the government’s human rights performance. Government representatives met with local NGOs, responded to their inquiries, and took some actions in response to NGO concerns. Some officials subjected NGOs to monitoring, harassment, interference, threats, and intimidation. On May 10, General Paulus Waterpauw stated that some NGOs and activists enflamed the situation in Papua and perpetuated the separatist movement there.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government generally permitted UN officials to monitor the human rights situation in the country, except in Papua and West Papua. Security forces and intelligence agencies, however, tended to regard foreign human rights observers with suspicion, especially those in Papua and West Papua, where their operations were restricted. NGOs continued to press the government to allow the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights to visit Papua and West Papua to assess the human rights situation there.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Many independent agencies addressed human rights problems, including the Office of the National Ombudsman, the National Commission on Violence against Women, and the National Human Rights Commission. The government is not required to adopt their recommendations and at times avoided doing so. Some agencies, including the human rights and violence against women commissions, may refer cases to police or prosecutors.

The Aceh Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established to investigate human rights violations perpetrated by the government and the then active Free Aceh Movement between 1976 and 2005, has taken statements from victims, former separatists, and witnesses between 2016 and 2020. Budget constraints posed challenges for the commission.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, domestic abuse, and other forms of violence against women. The legal definition of rape covers only forced penetration of sexual organs, and filing a case requires a witness or other corroboration. Rape is punishable by four to 14 years in prison and a substantial fine. While the government imprisoned some perpetrators of rape and attempted rape, sentences were often light, and many convicted rapists received the minimum sentence. Marital rape is not a specific criminal offense in law but is covered under “forced sexual intercourse” in national legislation on domestic violence and may be punished with criminal penalties.

The National Commission on Violence against Women reported receiving 2,300 complaints of violence against women in 2020, up from 1,400 in 2019 – the Commission attributed the upswing in part to social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as increased willingness of victims to report incidents. On August 24, the commission reported that in the first six months of the year, it received more than 2,500 complaints – the majority of which were domestic violence incidents. Civil society activists underscored that many cases went unreported, as many victims did not report abuse because of fear of social stigma, shame, and lack of support from friends and family.

On June 13, a 16-year-old girl was detained for questioning in West Halmahera Regency, North Maluku Province and taken to the South Jailolo Police Station. While detained the girl was raped by a police officer at the station who threatened her with jail time if she refused to have sex with him. On June 23, North Maluku police reported that the officer had been dishonorably discharged from the police and arrested pending trial for rape.

Civil society organizations operated integrated service centers for women and children in all 34 provinces and approximately 436 districts and provided counseling and support services of varying quality to victims of violence. Larger provincial service centers provided more comprehensive psychosocial services. living in rural areas or districts with no such center had difficulty receiving support services, and some centers were only open for six hours a day, not the required 24 hours. Nationwide, police operated “special crisis rooms” or “women’s desks” where female officers received reports from female and child victims of sexual assault and trafficking and where victims found temporary shelter.

In addition to 32 provincial-level antitrafficking-in-persons task forces, the government has 251 task forces at the local (district or city) level, which were usually chaired by the head of the local integrated service center or of the local social affairs office.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C reportedly occurred regularly. There were no recent reliable data on FGM/C. Using 2013 data, UNICEF estimated that 49 percent of girls aged 11 and younger underwent some form of FGM/C, with the majority of girls subjected to the procedure before they were six months old. National law prohibiting this practice has never been tested in court, as no one has ever been charged for performing FGM/C. The Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection continued to lead official efforts to prevent FGM/C.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibiting indecent public acts serves as the basis for criminal complaints stemming from sexual harassment. Violations are punishable by imprisonment of up to two years and eight months and a small fine. Civil society and NGOs reported sexual harassment was a problem countrywide.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. NGOs reported that social stigma and bullying of female students related to menstruation occurred, and that female students had inadequate access to menstrual education, hygiene products, and hygienic facilities at schools. Such inadequacy prevented female students from appropriately managing menstruation, frequently resulting in absenteeism from school during menstruation. (See the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting subsection for additional information.)

The law recognizes the basic right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, but various regulations undercut its effective implementation for women. By law the government must provide information and education on reproductive health that do not conflict with religious or moral norms. NGOs reported that government officials attempted to restrict the provision of reproductive health information related to contraceptives and other services deemed as conflicting with religious or moral norms.

While condoms were widely available, regulations require husbands’ permission for married women to obtain other forms of birth control. Local NGOs reported that unmarried women found it difficult to obtain contraceptives through health-care systems. Media and NGOs reported such women were stigmatized, including by health-care staff who repeatedly asked about marital status and sometimes turned away unmarried women seeking routine procedures such as pap smears.

The UN Population Fund reported that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted access to family planning and reproductive services. The National Agency for Population and Family Planning reported that approximately 10 percent of its clients dropped out of its programs during the pandemic.

NGOs reported that reproductive health services were not consistently provided to victims of sexual violence. NGOs reported rape victims sometimes experienced difficulties obtaining emergency contraceptives from medical providers.

According to 2017 World Health Organization data, the maternal mortality rate was 177 per 100,000 live births, down from 184 in 2016. The Ministry of Health and NGOs identified several factors contributing to the maternal mortality rate, including lack of training for midwives and traditional birth attendants, continued lack of access to basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric care, and limited availability of essential maternal and neonatal medications. Hospitals and health centers did not always properly manage complicated procedures, and financial barriers and the limited availability of qualified health personnel caused problems for referrals in case of complications. A woman’s economic status, level of education, and age at first marriage also affected maternal mortality.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men in family, labor, property, and nationality law, but it does not grant widows equal inheritance rights. The law states that women’s work outside the home must not conflict with their role in improving family welfare and educating the younger generation. The law designates the man as the head of the household.

Divorce is available to both men and women. Many divorced women received no alimony, since there is no system to enforce such payments. The law requires a divorced woman to wait 40 days before remarrying; a man may remarry immediately.

The National Commission on Violence against Women viewed many local laws and policies as discriminatory. These included “morality laws” and antiprostitution regulations.

In January media widely reported that a Christian female student was forced to wear a hijab in Padang, West Sumatra. In May the Supreme Court invalidated a government ban issued in February on such school regulations, stating that it conflicted with laws regarding the national education system, protection of children, and local government. A March report by Human Rights Watch detailed widespread and intense social pressure for women to wear hijabs in schools and government offices, in addition to requirements in official regulations. Women faced discrimination in the workplace, both in hiring and in gaining fair compensation (see section 7.d.).

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The law contains provisions specifically aimed at eliminating racial and ethnic discrimination, providing criminal penalties for individuals who discriminate on ethnic/racial grounds, as well as sentencing enhancements for violent actions that include a racial or ethnic motivation. The law defines hate speech as spreading hate against a race, tribe, religion, or group. The government generally applied hate speech law in cases related to race.

NGOs reported that persons of Melanesian descent, predominantly from Papua and West Papua, faced widespread discrimination throughout the country. Persons of Melanesian descent often faced police abuse (see sections 1.c., 1.g., and 2.b.)

In a January interview, former National Intelligence Agency chief General Hendropriyono suggested that two million Papuans should be resettled away from their homeland so that they would be “racially separate from the Papuans in Papua New Guinea” and feel more Indonesian.

In January Ambroncius Nababan, chairman of the pro-president Widodo Projamin Volunteer Organization, used racist language and images of a gorilla to attack Natalius Pigai, former human rights commissioner and an ethnic Papuan, over Pigai’s criticism of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine.

An Amnesty International report covering protests in July and August related to the extension and revision of special autonomy found that police officers involved in arresting or causing injury to Papuan protesters had referred to them as “monkeys.”

Papuan activists emphasized that although Papua and West Papua are rich in natural resources, the local Melanesian population has historically not fully benefitted from these resources and much of the local economy has long been controlled by non-Melanesians. Statistics Indonesia, a government agency, reported that in 2020 the provinces of Papua and West Papua had the lowest Human Development Index and highest poverty rate of the country’s 34 provinces. On July 15, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill extending special autonomy for the provinces of Papua and West Papua, which included an increase in the yearly allocation of government funds to Papua from 2 to 2.25 percent of the national budget intended to address this inequality. Opponents of this bill claimed the economic benefits of this increase would disproportionately benefit non-Melanesians.

Indigenous Peoples

The government viewed all citizens as “indigenous” but recognized the existence of several “isolated communities” and their right to participate fully in political and social life. The Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago estimated that between 50 and 70 million indigenous persons were in the country. These communities include the Dayak tribes of Kalimantan, families living as sea nomads, and the 312 officially recognized indigenous groups in Papua. Indigenous persons, most notably in Papua and West Papua, were subjected to discrimination.

There was little improvement in respect for indigenous persons’ traditional land rights and access to ancestral lands remained a major source of tension throughout the country. The government failed to prevent companies, often in collusion with local military and police units, from encroaching on indigenous peoples’ land. Central and local government officials were also alleged to have extracted kickbacks from mining and plantation companies in exchange for land access at the expense of indigenous peoples.

Mining and logging activities, many of them illegal, posed significant social, economic, and legal problems for indigenous communities. Melanesians in Papua cited racism and discrimination as drivers of violence and economic inequality in the region.

NGOs reported that as of January, only approximately 193 square miles of a proposed 38,610 square miles has been granted to local indigenous groups. These hutan adat (customary forest) land grants are specifically designated for indigenous groups. Nevertheless, large corporations and the government continued to displace individuals from ancestral lands. NGOs reported that security forces and police sometimes became involved in disputes between corporations and indigenous communities, often taking the side of the businesses.

From January 2020 to March 2021, Amnesty International reported 61 cases of indigenous community members arrested without due process of law – a trend the NGO identified as an attempt to criminalize indigenous community’s efforts to maintain their customary rights.

In May the West Papua government rescinded 12 licenses held by companies operating palm oil plantations in the province. The 12 licenses covered a total of 1,034 square miles. The recensions came after the provincial government collaborated with the Corruption Eradication Commission and the NGO EcoNusa to review 24 palm oil license holders for administrative and legal violations.

On May 18, security personnel from PT Toba Pulp Lestari clashed with thousands of residents in Toba Regency, North Sumatra, injuring dozens of residents. The confrontation started because of the company’s plans to plant eucalyptus trees on 2.3 square miles claimed by the local indigenous community as customary land. The conflict was part of a long-standing dispute. From 2020 to May 2021, PT Toba Pulp Lestari reported 71 members of the local indigenous community to police for a variety of offenses.

In June Human Rights Watch released an in-depth report on the operations of PT Sintang Raya’s palm oil plantations and the company’s disputes with the local indigenous community in Kubu Raya Regency, West Kalimantan Province. The report stated that government “authorities have done very little to mediate and resolve disputes” about land ownership.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived through the citizenship of one’s parents. If citizenship of the parents cannot be determined, or the parents lack citizenship, citizenship can be acquired by birth in national territory.

The law prohibits fees for legal identity documents issued by the civil registry. Nevertheless, NGOs reported that in some districts local authorities did not provide free birth certificates.

Education: Although the constitution states that the government must provide tuition-free education, it does not cover fees charged for schoolbooks, uniforms, transportation, and other nontuition costs. The Ministry of Education and Culture, representing public and private schools, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs for Islamic schools and madrassahs, operated a system giving students from low-income families a financial grant for their educational needs. Nonetheless, high poverty rates nationwide put education out of reach for many children.

According to the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection’s 2019 Children Profile Report, approximately 10.9 million children ages five to 17 had not attended school and 3.2 million children had dropped out of school.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse, but NGOs criticized the slow police response to such allegations. The law also addresses economic and sexual exploitation of children. Some provincial governments did not enforce these provisions. In April, six female primary school students alleged their school principal had sexually assaulted them in Medan, North Sumatra. In May the principal was arrested and named as a suspect by police. In May a Quran teacher in Bekasi, West Java Province, was arrested for allegedly molesting a 15-year-old female student in a mosque where he worked.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum marriage age for women and men is 19. Exceptions to the minimum age requirements are allowed with court approval. The courts officially permitted more than 33,000 child marriages with parental consent between January and June 2020, with 60 percent of these involving individuals younger than 18. Children’s rights activists are concerned that increased economic pressure from COVID-19 may be leading parents to resort to child marriage to reduce the economic burden on their households. The National Statistics Agency reported in 2018 that approximately 11 percent of girls in the country married before the age of 18. Provinces with the highest rates of early marriage include West Sulawesi, Central Kalimantan, Southeast Sulawesi, South Kalimantan, and West Kalimantan. The main drivers of early marriage were poverty, cultural tradition, religious norms, and lack of sexual reproductive-health education.

The reduction of child marriage is one of the targets set in the National Mid-Term Development Plan 2020-2024. The government aimed to reduce new child marriages to 8.7 percent of all marriages by 2024.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law forbids consensual sex outside of marriage with girls younger than 15. It does not address heterosexual conduct between women and boys, but it prohibits same-sex sexual conduct between adults and minors.

The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and the use of children in illicit activities. It also prohibits child pornography and prescribes a maximum sentence of 12 years and a substantial fine for producing or trading in child pornography.

According to 2016 data, the most recent available from the Ministry of Social Affairs, there were 56,000 underage sex workers in the country; UNICEF estimated that nationwide 40,000 to 70,000 children were victims of sexual exploitation and that 30 percent of female commercial sex workers were children.

In February media reported that an online matchmaking service named Aisha Weddings promoted services for those between the ages of 12 and 21 on its website and advertised unregistered and polygamous marriages. The website was blocked soon after being reported. Police stated that the website was registered in a foreign country.

From April to July, a mosque administrator allegedly sexually abused 16 children in Makassar, South Sulawesi Province in the mosque. The administrator paid the victims 10 to 20 thousand IDR ($0.70 to $1.40) to agree to engage in the sexual acts. In August police arrested the man, who faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Displaced Children: Ministry of Social Affairs data from December 2020 estimated there were 67,368 street children in the country. The government continued to fund shelters administered by local NGOs and paid for the education of some street children.

Institutionalized Children: The Ministry of Social Affairs reported that in 2019 183,104 children were registered in its Integrated Social Welfare Data system, of whom 106,406 were residing in 4,864 child welfare institutions; 76,698 were in family placement.

In August two orphan children at the al-Amin Orphanage in Gresik Regency, East Java Province, were abused by the son of the orphanage’s administrator. The abuser used a wire to beat the two children, aged 10 and 11. The incident was reported to police.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The country’s Jewish population was extremely small, estimated at approximately 200. There were no significant reports of anti-Semitism, but studies in recent years indicated a high level of anti-Semitic sentiment, often linked with strong anti-Israeli sentiment.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities and mandates accessibility to public facilities for persons with disabilities. The law applies to education, employment, health services, transportation, and other state services but was seldom enforced. Comprehensive disability rights law provisions impose criminal sanctions for violators of the rights of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis. They had difficulties accessing information on the pandemic, following virus-related public health strategies, and receiving health care from service providers.

According to Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection data from 2019, approximately 650,000 children ages two to 17 have disabilities. There was no reliable data on their access to education, but observers believed it was low.

According to the General Election Commission, there were potentially 137,247 voters with disabilities out of 105 million voters registered to vote in the 2020 regional head elections. The law provides persons with disabilities the rights to vote and run for office, and election commission procedures provide for access to the polls for voters with disabilities.

Despite a government ban, NGOs reported that families, traditional healers, and staff in institutions continued to shackle individuals with psychosocial disabilities, in some cases for years. The government continued to prioritize elimination of this practice. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the practice of shackling increased, after declining for several years. According to Ministry of Health data, in the year prior to the pandemic there were 5,227 cases of shackling nationwide, but during the pandemic the number increased to 6,278 by the end of 2020, with the largest increase coming in East Java Province where the number of cases jumped from 961 to 2,302. NGOs noted a lack of public awareness of the issue.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The stigmatization of and discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS were pervasive, despite government efforts to encourage tolerance. Societal tolerance varied widely and official fear of a backlash from religious conservatives often resulted in muted prevention efforts. Societal barriers to accessing antiretroviral drugs and their expense put these drugs beyond the reach of many. Persons with HIV or AIDS reportedly continued to face employment discrimination. Closer collaboration between the Ministry of Health and civil society organizations increased the reach of the government’s awareness campaign; however, some clinics refused to provide services to persons with HIV or AIDS.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

No national law criminalizes same-sex sexual conduct, except between adults and minors. NGOs reported numerous cases of local government regulations that define same-sex sexual conduct as a form of sexual deviance. Aceh’s sharia makes consensual same-sex sexual conduct illegal and punishable by a maximum of 100 lashes, a considerable fine, or a 100-month prison term. According to Aceh’s sharia agency chief, at least four witnesses must observe individuals engaging in consensual same-sex sexual conduct for them to be charged. Local organizations held anti-LGBTQI+ protests. NGOs reported that fear of prosecution under Aceh’s sharia at times caused LGBTQI+ activists to flee the province, sometimes permanently. Producing media depicting consensual same-sex sexual conduct – vaguely and broadly defined in the law – can be prosecuted as a crime under the antipornography act. Penalties include potentially extremely large fines and imprisonment from six months to 15 years, with heavier penalties for crimes involving minors.

In August a military tribunal in North Kalimantan dismissed a soldier from service and sentenced him to seven months in prison for having same-sex intercourse. The judges stated that the soldier had violated military regulations against immorality and LGBTQI+ activities.

Antidiscrimination law does not protect LGBTQI+ individuals, and discrimination and violence against LGBTQI+ persons continued. Families often put LGBTQI+ minors into conversion therapy, confined them to their homes, or pressured them to marry persons of the opposite sex.

According to media and NGO reports, local authorities harassed transgender persons, including by forcing them to conform to cultural standards of behavior associated with their biological sex or to pay bribes following detention. In many cases, officials failed to protect LGBTQI+ persons from societal abuse. Police corruption, bias, and violence caused LGBTQI+ persons to avoid interaction with police. Officials often ignored formal complaints by victims and affected persons, including refusing to investigate bullying directed at LGBTQI+ individuals. In criminal cases with LGBTQI+ victims, police investigated the cases reasonably well, as long as the suspect was not affiliated with police. Human Rights Watch Indonesia noted anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric in the country has increased since 2016.

In 2020 Hendrika Mayora Kelan was elected to head of the consultative body of a small village in East Nusa Tenggara Province, becoming the country’s first transgender public official.

Transgender persons faced discrimination in employment and access to public services and health care. NGOs documented government officials’ refusal to issue identity cards to transgender persons. NGOs reported that transgender individuals sometimes faced problems in getting COVID-19 vaccinations due to the lack of identity documents. The law only allows transgender individuals officially to change their gender after the completion of sex reassignment surgery. Some observers claimed the process was cumbersome and degrading because it is permissible only in certain undefined special circumstances and requires a court order declaring that the surgery is complete. In June the Ministry of Home Affairs announced that it would start providing electronic identity cards to transgender individuals; however, the name and gender on the card would remain those given at birth, absent a court order showing a change of name or gender.

LGBTQI+ NGOs operated but frequently held low-key public events because the licenses or permits required for holding registered events were difficult to obtain or they were pressured by police not to hold such events to avoid creating “social unrest.”

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law, with restrictions, provides for the rights of workers to join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination.

Workers in the private sector have, in law, broad rights of association and formed and joined unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements. The law places restrictions on organizing among public-sector workers. Civil servants may only form employee associations with limitations on certain rights, such as the right to strike. Employees of state-owned enterprises may form unions, but because the government treats most such enterprises as essential national interest entities, their right to strike is limited.

The law stipulates that 10 or more workers have the right to form a union, with membership open to all workers, regardless of political affiliation, religion, ethnicity, or gender. The Ministry of Manpower records, rather than approves, the formation of a union, federation, or confederation and provides it with a registration number.

The law allows the government to petition the courts to dissolve a union if it conflicts with the constitution or the national ideology of Pancasila, which encompasses the principles of belief in one God, justice, unity, democracy, and social justice. Authorities may compel a union to dissolve if its leaders or members, in the name of the union, commit crimes against the security of the state, and they may receive a minimum of five years in prison. Once a union is dissolved, its leaders and members may not form another union for at least three years. The International Labor Organization remained concerned that dissolving a union could be disproportionate to the seriousness of the violation.

The law includes some restrictions on collective bargaining, including a requirement that a union or unions represent more than 50 percent of the company workforce or receive a vote of more than 50 percent of all workers to negotiate a collective labor agreement. Workers and employers have 30 days to conclude a collective labor agreement. Such agreements have a two-year lifespan that the parties may extend for one year. Unions noted that the law allows employers to delay the negotiation of collective labor agreements with few legal repercussions.

The right to strike is legally restricted. By law workers must give written notification that includes the location and start and end time to authorities and employer seven days in advance for a strike to be legal. Before striking, workers must engage in mediation with the employer and then proceed to a government mediator or risk having the strike declared illegal. In the case of an illegal strike, an employer may make two written requests within a period of seven days for workers to return. Workers who do not return to work after these requests are considered to have resigned.

All strikes at “enterprises that cater to the interests of the general public or at enterprises whose activities would endanger the safety of human life if discontinued” are deemed illegal. Regulations do not specify the types of enterprises affected, leaving this determination to the government’s discretion. Presidential and ministerial decrees enable companies or industrial areas to request assistance from police and the military in the event of disruption of or threat to “national vital objects” in their jurisdiction. The International Labor Organization believes that the regulatory definition of “national vital objects” imposed overly broad restrictions on legitimate trade union activity, including in export-processing zones. Human rights activists and unions alleged that the government continues to label companies and economic areas as “national vital objects” to justify the use of security forces to restrict strike activity.

The government did not always effectively enforce provisions of the law protecting freedom of association or preventing antiunion discrimination. Antiunion discrimination cases moved excessively slowly through the court system. Bribery and judicial corruption in workers’ disputes continued, and unions claimed that courts rarely decided cases in the workers’ favor, even in cases in which the Ministry of Manpower recommended in favor of the workers. While such workers sometimes received severance pay or other compensation, they were rarely reinstated. Authorities used some legal provisions to prosecute trade unionists for striking, such as the crime of “instigating a punishable act” or committing “unpleasant acts,” which criminalized a broad range of conduct.

Penalties for criminal violations of the law protecting freedom of association and the right to enter into collective labor agreements include a prison sentence and fines and were generally commensurate with similar crimes. Local Ministry of Manpower offices were responsible for enforcement, which was particularly difficult in export-promotion zones. Enforcement of collective bargaining agreements varied based on the capacity and interest of individual regional governments.

Several common practices undermined freedom of association. Antiunion intimidation most often took the form of termination, transfer, or filing unjustified criminal charges. Unions alleged that employers commonly reassigned labor leaders deemed to be problematic. For example, on May 21, union leader Zulkarnain (one name only) was dismissed by PT Schneider Electric; the company said it was for inability to do his work. The company in May 2020 transferred Zulkarnain from his position of 10 years as a metrology engineer to a supplier quality engineer and said he could either take the offer or leave. On March 10, management gave him both a first and second warning letter alleging underperformance. The company allegedly threatened to cut his severance payment if he appealed the dismissal through the union. The district labor department said underperformance could not be grounds for dismissal. As of October 14, there were no additional updates on this case.

Labor activists claimed that companies orchestrated the formation of multiple unions, including “yellow” (employer-controlled) unions, to weaken legitimate unions. Some employers threatened employees who contacted union organizers. Companies often sued union leaders for losses suffered in strikes.

Many strikes were unsanctioned or “wildcat” strikes that broke out after a failure to settle long-term grievances or when an employer refused to recognize a union. Unions reported that employers also used the bureaucratic process required for a legal strike to obstruct unions’ right to strike. Unions noted that employers’ delays in negotiating collective labor agreements contributed to strike activity and legal measures taken against union members in the event of a failed agreement negotiation.

The 2020 Omnibus Law on Job Creation and the subsequent implementing regulations allowed for increased use of contract labor and eliminated restrictions on outsourcing labor. Both changes affected workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively. Under the law, outsourcing contract labor can be done for any business activity without limitation. The provider company, rather than the user company, is solely responsible for the working conditions and wages of contract workers. The user company may source contract workers from multiple outsourcing companies, making it impossible for workers to bargain collectively at the workplace.

The Omnibus Law provides vague limits to the use of fixed-term contracts. For example, fixed-term contracts can be used for any work that is temporary in nature or can be completed in “not too long a time.” The implementing regulations also increased the maximum duration of fixed contracts from three years to 10 years. These broad guidelines made it difficult to ensure that the threat of contract renewal was not used to inhibit freedom of association and collective bargaining. In March workers at two unions, PTTEL security union and PTTEL care and service union, went on strike after failing to negotiate a new collective agreement with management. Part of the dispute was a result of the company outsourcing workers at the factory, and the dismissal of 38 of those workers. The union reported that police violently dispersed the picket line.

In 2020 the Indonesian Trade Union Confederation and the Confederation of Indonesian Workers Welfare Union, the two largest labor unions, filed requests for judicial review of the constitutionality of the 2020 Omnibus Law with the Constitutional Court due to the adverse impact of the law on workers. In June the Constitutional Court refused the judicial review request from the Confederation of Indonesian Workers Welfare Union; however, the request from the Indonesian Trade Union Confederation was still under consideration as of October 25.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, prescribing penalties of imprisonment and a fine, which were commensurate with similar crimes.

To prevent forced labor among Indonesian workers abroad, the National Social Security Administration enrolls these migrant workers and their families in the national social security program, enables authorities to prosecute suspects involved in illegal recruitment and placement of workers, and limits the role of private recruitment and placement agencies by revoking their authority to obtain travel documents for migrant workers. Government agencies may suspend the licenses of recruitment agencies for coercive or deceptive recruitment practices and contract signings, sending migrant workers to an unauthorized destination country, document forgery, underage recruitment, illegal fees (such as requesting several months of workers’ salaries), and other violations.

The government continued its moratorium on sending domestic workers to certain countries where its citizens had been subjected to forced labor. Some observers noted this moratorium resulted in an increasing number of workers seeking the services of illegal brokers and placement agencies to facilitate their travel, increasing their vulnerability to human trafficking. The government asserted such moratoriums were needed until receiving countries can guarantee protections against the abuse and exploitation of its migrant workers.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. There were credible reports that forced labor occurred, including forced and compulsory labor by children (see section 7.c.). A May Greenpeace report released covering a period of six years indicated a significant increase in reports of forced labor on fishing vessels at sea in 2020. Forced labor also occurred in domestic servitude and in the mining, manufacturing, fish processing, construction, and plantation agriculture sectors.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

Law and regulations prohibit all labor by children between the ages of five and 12. Children ages 13 and 14 may work up to 15 hours per week; children ages 15 to 17 may work up to 40 hours per week (not during school or evening hours and with written permission from parents). The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor, as defined by the International Labor Organization. It does not, however, extend to the informal economy, where most child labor takes place. Companies which legally employ children for the purpose of artistic performances and similar activities are required to keep records of their employment. Companies that legally employ children for other purposes are not required to keep such records. In 2020 through its Family Hope Program, the government removed 9,000 children from child labor.

The government did not effectively enforce the law prohibiting the worst forms of child labor. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes.

Child labor commonly occurred in domestic service, rural agriculture, light industry, manufacturing, and fishing. There were reports of child labor on palm oil plantations. The worst forms of child labor occurred in commercial sexual exploitation, including the production of child pornography (also see section 6, Children); other illicit activities, including forced begging and the production, sale, and trafficking of drugs; and in fishing and domestic work.

According to a National Statistics Agency report, in August 2020 there were approximately 1.17 million children ages 10 to 17 working, primarily in the informal economy. The International Labor Organization estimated 1.5 million children between ages 10 and 17 work in the agricultural sector.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, and disability but not specifically with respect to sexual orientation or gender identity, age, language, or HIV or other communicable disease status. There were no legal restrictions against women in employment to include limiting working hours, occupations, or tasks.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were commensurate with those for violations of similar laws, but they were not applied outside the formal sector. According to NGOs, antidiscrimination protections were not always observed by employers or the government. Human rights groups reported some government ministries discriminated against pregnant women, persons with disabilities, LGBTQI+ individuals, and HIV-positive persons in hiring. For example, on June 23, the chief of staff of the navy stated that he would dismiss any naval personnel involved in LGBTQI+ activities. The Ministry of Manpower, the Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Agency, the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the National Development Planning Board worked in partnership to reduce gender inequality, including supporting equal employment opportunity task forces at the provincial, district, and municipal levels. , however, still lagged behind men in wages.

In January courts dismissed a suit filed by a gay police officer in Central Java Province for reinstatement into the police force. In 2018 he was fired after being seen with his same-sex romantic partner.

In March a West Sumatran man with a disability lost his appeal to be admitted as a civil servant for the National Audit Board. The man passed the required test but was told he was not healthy enough in mind and body. The man appealed this initial decision and submitted complaints to the National Commission of Human Rights and the Ombudsman.

Migrant workers and persons with disabilities commonly faced discrimination in employment and were often only hired for lower status jobs.

In June IndustriAll reported that the Ministry for Women’s Empowerment and Children agreed to the establishment of an additional 10-15 “protection houses” in key industrial zones where women employees can report gender-based violence, discrimination, and noncompliance with maternity protection. Government agencies provided physical, mental and rehabilitation support. The program began in 2020 and included six protection houses.

Some activists said that in manufacturing, employers relegated women to lower paying, lower-level jobs. Jobs traditionally associated with women continued to be significantly undervalued and unregulated. NGOs reported discriminatory behavior toward domestic workers continued to be rampant.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: Minimum wages varied throughout the country since provincial governors had authority to set a minimum wage floor and district heads had authority to set a higher rate. Minimum wages were above the official poverty line.

Most workers are not covered by the minimum wage laws. Government regulations exempt employers in certain sectors, including small and medium enterprises and labor-intensive industries such as textiles, from minimum wage requirements. Implementing regulations issued from February to April for the 2020 Omnibus Law require that sectors exempt from minimum wage rules should pay workers at least 50 percent of the average public consumption or 25 percent above the poverty level of their province. The new regulations also make part-time workers eligible for hourly wages.

For certain sectors, the overtime rate for work in excess of a 40-hour workweek was 1.5 times the normal hourly rate for the first hour and twice the hourly rate for additional overtime, with a maximum of four hours of overtime per day and a maximum of 18 hours per week. The 2020 Omnibus Law allows certain businesses that require temporary employees to be exempt from the 40-hour workweek. According to the February implementing regulation related to this provision, the sectors exempt from the 40-hour workweek include, but are not limited to, energy and natural resources, mining, natural gas and oil, agribusiness, and fisheries.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law requires employers to provide a safe and healthy workplace and to treat workers with dignity and provides appropriate standards for the main industries. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

There were no reliable national estimates for workplace deaths or injuries. Unions continued to urge the government, especially the Ministry of Manpower, to do more to address the country’s poor worker safety record and lax enforcement of health and safety regulations, particularly in the construction sector. NGOs and unions reported that many businesses continued to operate in defiance of government lockdown orders, at times resulting in COVID-19 outbreaks. In August the Ministry of Manpower released guidance for business-labor relations during the pandemic and items that should be covered in collective labor agreements to avoid disruptions and disputes.

Local officials from the Ministry of Manpower are responsible for enforcing minimum wage, work hours, and health and safety regulations. Penalties for violations include fines and imprisonment (for violation of the minimum wage law), which were generally commensurate with those for similar crimes. Government enforcement was inadequate, particularly at smaller companies, and supervision of labor standards was not fully enforced. Provincial and local officials often did not have the technical expertise needed to enforce labor law effectively. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and can initiate sanctions in the formal sector. The Ministry of Manpower employed 1,352 labor inspectors in 2020 and allocated IDR 191 billion ($13.3 million) for the labor inspections, down from IDR 231 billion ($16.1 million) in 2019. The number of inspectors was inadequate to enforce compliance.

Informal Sector: Authorities enforced labor regulations, including minimum wage regulations, only for the estimated 43 percent of workers in the formal sector. Workers in the informal sector did not receive the same protections or benefits as workers in the formal sector, in part because they had no legal work contract that labor inspectors could examine. The law does not mandate that employers provide domestic workers with a minimum wage, health insurance, freedom of association, an eight-hour workday, a weekly day of rest, vacation time, or safe work conditions.

Plantation agriculture workers often worked long hours without government-mandated health insurance benefits. They lacked proper safety gear and training in pesticide safety. Most plantation operators paid workers by the volume of crop harvested, which resulted in some workers receiving less than minimum wage and working extended hours to meet volume targets.

Gig workers were not protected under wage, work hours, and occupational safety and health regulations. This led to several large work stoppages by gig workers. For example, on April 6, approximately 1,000 Shopee Express couriers conducted a one-day work stoppage in Bandung following a cut in their pay that meant drivers would earn less than the minimum wage. In June drivers at GoKilat and LalaMove held two major work stoppages related to working conditions.

Japan

Executive Summary

Japan has a parliamentary government with a constitutional monarchy. On November 10, Kishida Fumio, the new leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, was confirmed as prime minister. International observers assessed elections to the Lower House of the Diet in October, which the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, Komeito, won with an absolute majority, as free and fair. Domestic lawyers filed lawsuits seeking to nullify the results of the Lower House election in all electoral districts for alleged unconstitutional vote weight disparities (see Section 3, Elections and Political Participation).

The National Public Safety Commission, a cabinet-level entity, oversees the National Police Agency, and prefectural public safety commissions have responsibility for local police forces. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: significant barriers to accessing reproductive health; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting persons with disabilities, members of national/racial/ethnic minority groups, or indigenous peoples. There were concerns that some laws and practices, if misused, could infringe on freedom of the press. A human rights concern was criminal libel laws, although there was no evidence the government abused these laws to restrict public discussion.

The government had mechanisms in place to identify and punish officials who may commit human rights abuses or engage in corrupt practices. There were no known reports of such action during the year.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were documented cases of corruption by officials.

Independent academic experts stated that ties among politicians, bureaucrats, and businesspersons were close, and corruption remained a concern. There were investigations into financial and accounting irregularities involving government officials.

Corruption: Among cases of corruption by officials, on February 5, the Tokyo District Court sentenced Kawai Anri, former member of the House of Councilors, to imprisonment for one year and four months with a five-year suspension of the jail sentence. On October 21, the court finalized a sentence given to Kawai Katsuyuki, the spouse of Kawai Anri and a former member of the House of Representatives, of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1.3 million yen ($11,900). In 2020 the Kawais were arrested and indicted on charges of paying cash for votes in Kawai Anri’s election. The couple lost their Diet seats February 3 (Anri) and April 1 (Katsuyuki).

Thirteen officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications were found on June 4 to have violated the government’s National Public Service Ethics Code, which prohibits receiving favors from stakeholders. Suga Seigo, son of former prime minister Suga Yoshihide, and other members of the Tohokushinsha Film Corporation, a satellite broadcasting company, gave the 13 officials thousands of dollars’ worth of favors on 39 occasions between 2016 and 2020. Of the 13 officials, 11 were administratively reprimanded; none were prosecuted. The light penalty reflected the fact that the process was an internal, administrative one rather than a criminal prosecution.

In September the Tokyo District Court found former LDP Diet member Akimoto Tsukasa guilty of receiving bribes worth 7.6 million yen ($69,700) between September 2017 and February 2018 from a Chinese gambling operator bidding to enter Japan’s casino market. He was also found guilty of offering money to two advisors to the company in exchange for giving false testimony. Akimoto was the senior vice minister in the Cabinet Office in 2017 and 2018 responsible for the government’s initiative to legalize the operation of casinos. He was sentenced to four years in prison and fined 7.6 million yen ($69,700). He appealed the decision to a higher court. As of October, his appeal was still pending.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were usually cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ministry of Justice’s Human Rights Counseling Office has more than 300 offices across the country. Approximately 14,000 volunteers fielded questions in person, by telephone, or on the internet, and provided confidential consultations. Counselling in 10 foreign languages was available in 50 offices. These consultative offices field queries, but they do not have authority to investigate human rights abuses by individuals or public organizations without consent from parties concerned. They provided counsel and mediation, and collaborated with other government agencies, including child consultation centers and police. Municipal governments have human rights offices that deal with a range of human rights problems.

According to the Ministry of Justice, regional legal affairs bureaus nationwide initiated relief procedures in 9,589 cases of human rights abuses in 2020. Of those, 1,693 were committed online, and 256 were cases of sexual harassment. There were 175 cases of human rights violations related to COVID-19. In one such case an individual found to be positive for COVID-19 was denied medical care when their local health authority learned their partner was a health-care provider. The health authority recommended the individual seek care from their partner rather than in an outside setting.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, or gender identity is not prohibited.

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes various forms of rape, regardless of the gender of a survivor and defines the crime as vaginal, anal, or oral penile penetration by force or through intimidation. Only men can be charged with rape, and the law does not recognize anything other than the use of male genitalia as rape. Forcible penetration with any other body part or object is considered forcible indecency, not rape. The age of consent is 13, which made prosecution for child rape difficult. The law also criminalizes custodial rape of a minor younger than age 18. The law does not deny the possibility of spousal rape, but no court has ever ruled on such a case, except in situations of marital breakdown (i.e., formal or informal separation, etc.). The law mandates a minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment for rape convictions. Prosecutors must prove that violence or intimidation was involved or that the survivor was incapable of resistance. The penalty for forcible indecency is imprisonment for not less than six months or more than 10 years. Domestic violence is also a crime and survivors may seek restraining orders against their abusers. Convicted assault perpetrators face up to two years’ imprisonment or a modest fine. Convicted offenders who caused bodily injury faced up to 15 years’ imprisonment or a modest fine. Protective order violators faced up to one year’s imprisonment or a moderate fine. The National Police Agency received 82,643 reports of domestic violence in 2020, a record high after consecutive annual increases since 2003.

In October the Cabinet Office’s Gender Equality Bureau reported a decrease in domestic violence inquiries compared with the same period in 2020. From April to September, it reported receiving 90,843 inquiries compared with 96,132 inquiries in the same period in 2020. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare allowed survivors fleeing domestic or sexual violence to receive public services from their municipality of actual residence rather than from that of their residence of record.

Rape and domestic violence were significantly underreported crimes. Observers attributed women’s reluctance to report rape to a variety of factors, including fear of being blamed, fear of public shaming, a lack of support, potential secondary victimization through the police response, and court proceedings that lack empathy for rape survivors.

In March a 43-year-old female company board official was arrested on suspicion of indecent behavior with a 17-year-old boy. Police said the woman and the survivor met on social media.

Survivors of abuse by domestic partners, spouses, and former spouses could receive protection at shelters run by either the government or NGOs.

Sexual Harassment: The law requires employers to make efforts to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace; however, such sexual harassment persisted (see section 7.d.).

Sexual harassment also persisted in society. Men groping women and girls on trains continued to be a problem. The NGO Japan National Assembly of Disabled People’s International reported continued sexual harassment and stalking of women in wheelchairs or with visual impairment on trains and at stations, calling on some railway companies to stop announcing that persons with physical disabilities were boarding trains; such announcements sometimes also included the car or station involved. Some railway companies reportedly used such announcements so that train station attendants and train crew could prevent accidents. The assembly noted the announcement, however, helped would-be offenders locate female passengers with physical disabilities. On the request of the NGO, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism in July issued a request that railway companies consider using alternative communication means. In August the ministry hosted a virtual meeting where representatives of more than 60 railway companies learned from assembly representatives about the harassment and stalking of women with disabilities on trains and at stations. As of the end of August, the assembly reported continued announcements by some railway companies, primarily in the greater Tokyo area.

In August the gender council of a youth group consisting mainly of high school and university students held an online petition campaign “NoMoreChikan,” demanding that the government take more fundamental and serious steps to prevent chikan (groping). At a press conference in late August, the group called on the government to conduct an in-depth survey of chikan, to increase awareness and education in schools including teaching students how to react when they are victimized, and to set up correctional programs for offenders. The group collected more than 27,000 signatures on a petition with its requests sent to the Ministry of Education, political parties, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly in September.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The law requires transgender persons to be without reproductive capacity, effectively requiring surgical sterilization for most persons to have their gender identity legally recognized. (See subsection “Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” below for more information.)

The law requires spousal consent to terminate a pregnancy.

In March the Ministry of Health issued new guidelines to allow survivors of domestic violence to terminate a pregnancy without spousal consent. There were reports that rape survivors were denied abortions without consent of the perpetrator. The Japan Medical Association instructed gynecologists to request documentation like a bill of indictment or a court sentence from sexual assault survivors seeking an abortion.

The government subsidized sexual or reproductive health-care services for survivors of sexual violence when the survivors seek help from police or government-designated centers supporting sexual violence survivors located in each prefecture. These services included medical examinations and emergency contraception.

Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination based on sex and generally provides women the same rights as men. The Gender Equality Bureau in the Cabinet Office continued to examine policies and monitor developments.

Despite the law and related policies, NGOs continued to allege that implementation of antidiscrimination measures was insufficient, pointing to discriminatory provisions in the law, unequal treatment of women in the labor market (see section 7.d.), and low representation of women in elected bodies.

Calls for the government to allow married couples to choose their own surnames continued. The civil code requires married couples to share a single surname. According to the government, 96 percent of married couples adopt the husband’s family name. On June 23, the Supreme Court ruled that the legal provision requiring married couples to use the same surname is constitutional. The ruling upheld a 2015 decision and recommended the issue be discussed in the Diet.

In February Mori Yoshiro, chairperson of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympics organizing committees and a former prime minister, was forced to resign after saying that meetings with women take too long because women talk too much.

Three high school students collected more than 7,500 signatures on a petition urging a major convenience store to change the name of its readymade food line from Okaasan Shokudo (Mom’s Diner). They argued there is an inherent gender bias in the name, implying that a wife’s job is to do the cooking and housework, possibly deepening social biases.

According to National Police Agency statistics, 7,026 women committed suicide in 2020, a 15 percent increase from the previous year. In February the prime minister elevated the issue to the cabinet level, assigning it to the minister for regional revitalization. A member of the ruling LDP’s “loneliness and isolation” taskforce attributed the increase to stresses arising from the pandemic, including the increased presence tin the home of spouses and children; record levels of domestic violence; and multiple high-profile celebrity suicides. The government also reported the number of working women who committed suicide rose to 1,698 in 2020 compared with an annual average of 1,323 from 2015 to 2019. The government attributed the more than 28 percent increase to the COVID-19 pandemic, in which women were disproportionally dismissed from their employment. The number of men and nonworking or self-employed women committing suicide declined. In response the bureau continued 24-hour hotline services and consultation services via social network services in Japanese and 10 foreign languages.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

There is no comprehensive law prohibiting racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination.

Despite legal safeguards against discrimination, foreign permanent residents in the country and non-ethnic Japanese citizens, including many who were born, raised, and educated in the country, were subjected to various forms of entrenched societal discrimination, including restricted access to housing, education, health care, and employment opportunities. Foreign nationals and “foreign looking” citizens reported they were prohibited entry – sometimes by signs reading “Japanese Only” – to privately owned facilities serving the public, including hotels and restaurants.

Senior government officials publicly repudiated the harassment of ethnic groups as inciting discrimination and reaffirmed the protection of individual rights for everyone in the country.

Representatives of the ethnic Korean community said hate speech against Koreans in public and on social networking sites persisted.

According to legal experts, hate speech or hate crimes against transgender women and ethnic Koreans, especially against Korean women and students, were numerous, but there were also incidents directed at other racial and ethnic minorities. Legal experts pointed out that hate speech against Chinese and Ainu also increased after the COVID-19 outbreak and the opening of the government-run National Ainu Museum in July 2020, respectively.

In May the Tokyo High Court ordered an Oita man to pay 1.3 million yen ($11,900) in damages for discriminatory comments he made on his blog about Koreans living in the country. The ruling determined the comments constituted racial discrimination. The plaintiff identified the defendant by using identifying information obtained from the internet service provider.

Students at Korea University (operated by an organization with close links to the North Korean regime) in Tokyo were excluded from government-issued financial aid designed to mitigate financial difficulties among students resulting from COVID-19. The government denied the exclusion of Korea University, which the government does not recognize as a higher education institution, constituted discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or nationality.

There were reports that kindergartners at an ethnically Korean school in Saitama were excluded from a government initiative to distribute face masks to schoolchildren and preschool workers.

In July the Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit to compel the government to provide Chosen schools subsidies for tuition. Chosen schools offer education to resident ethnic Koreans; the national government does not recognize them. All private high schools, except for the 64 Chosen schools, received tuition subsidies from the government. Local prefectures may recognize them and independently provide subsidies.

The law specifically addresses discrimination against Buraku (the descendants of feudal-era outcasts). It obligates national and local governments to study discrimination against Buraku, implement awareness education, and enhance the counseling system.

Buraku advocacy groups continued to report that despite socioeconomic improvements in their communities, widespread discrimination persisted in employment, marriage, housing, and property assessment. Although the Buraku label was no longer officially used to identify individuals, the family registry system can be used to identify them and facilitate discriminatory practices. Buraku advocates expressed concern that employers who required family registry information from job applicants for background checks, including many government agencies, might use this information to identify and discriminate against Buraku applicants.

Indigenous Peoples

The law recognizes Ainu as indigenous people, protects and promotes their culture, and prohibits discrimination against them. The law requires the national and local governments to take measures to support communities and boost local economies and tourism. The law does not provide for self-determination or other tribal rights, nor does it stipulate rights to education for Ainu.

There were widespread reports of continued discrimination against Ainu. In March a Nippon Television program broadcast content that used an anti-Ainu slur, in April graffiti with the same derogatory language was found in Tokyo, and throughout the year there were reports of hate speech online.

Although the government does not recognize the Ryukyu (a term that includes residents of Okinawa and portions of Kagoshima Prefecture) as indigenous people, it officially acknowledged their unique culture and history and made efforts to preserve and show respect for those traditions.

Children

Birth Registration: The law grants citizenship at birth to a child of a Japanese father who either is married to the child’s mother or recognizes his paternity; a child of a Japanese mother; or a child born in the country to parents who are both unknown or are stateless. The law relieves individuals from some conditions for naturalization to a person born in the country with no nationality at the time of birth but who has resided in the country for three consecutive years or more since his or her birth, but it does not grant citizenship without further conditions. The law requires registration within 14 days after in-country birth or within three months after birth abroad, and these deadlines were generally met. Individuals were allowed to register births after the deadline but were required to pay a nominal fine.

The law requires individuals to specify whether a child was born in or out of wedlock on the birth registration form. The law presumes that a child born within 300 days of a divorce is the divorced man’s child, resulting in the nonregistration of an unknown number of children.

Child Abuse: Reports of child abuse increased. Experts attributed the rise to increased social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to official data, police investigated a record 2,133 child abuse cases in 2020, an 8.2 percent increase from the previous year. Of the cases, 1,756 involved physical violence; 299 involved sexual abuse; 46, psychological abuse; and 32, neglect. Police took custody of 5,527 children whose lives were threatened and notified child consultation centers of suspected abuse against a record 106,991 children. Also in 2020, child abuse deaths totaled 57, of which half (28) were of children younger than age one. There were concerns that more cases went undetected as COVID-19 reduced the frequency with which children interacted with persons outside the family.

Reports of sexual abuse of children by teachers declined by more than half, largely because of increased public awareness and disciplinary dismissal of those teachers, according to a Ministry of Education official. Local education boards around the nation imposed disciplinary actions on 126 public school teachers for sexual misconduct with children from April 2019 through March 2020 according to the Ministry of Education. The ministry dismissed 96 percent of the disciplined teachers from their teaching posts. By law their teaching licenses were invalidated, but they may obtain teaching licenses again after three years. Children were also subject to human rights abuses via the internet. Abuses included publishing photographs and videos of elementary school students in public places without their consent. The government requested site operators to remove such images, and many reportedly complied.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The law stipulates that to marry, the male partner must be age 18 or older and the female partner 16 or older. A person younger than 20 may not marry without at least one parent’s approval. A law creating gender parity in the legal age to marry, 18 for both sexes, comes into force in April 2022.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The commercial sexual exploitation of children is illegal, with penalties including prison sentences or moderate fines. Statutory rape laws criminalize sexual intercourse with a girl younger than age 13, notwithstanding her consent. The penalty for statutory rape is a sentence of not less than three years’ imprisonment with mandatory labor. The law was enforced. Additionally, national law and local ordinances address sexual abuse of minors. Possession of child pornography is a crime. The commercialization of child pornography is illegal with the penalty of imprisonment with labor for not more than three years or a moderate fine. Police continued to crack down on this crime and noted that instances of sexual exploitation via social networking services continued to rise. NGOs continued to express concern that preventive efforts more frequently targeted victims rather than perpetrators. NGOs reported the low age of consent complicated efforts to formally identify children exploited in commercial sex as trafficking victims.

The continued practice of enjo kosai (compensated dating) and the existence of websites for online dating, social networking, and “delivery health” (a euphemism for call girl or escort services) facilitated the sex trafficking of children and other commercial sex industries. NGOs reported that unemployment and stay-at-home orders established because of the COVID-19 crisis fueled online sexual exploitation of children. The government’s interagency taskforce to combat child sex trafficking in joshi kosei (or “JK” businesses) – dating services connecting adult men with underage girls – and in forced pornography continued to strengthen its crackdown on such businesses. Ordinances in seven prefectures ban JK businesses, prohibiting girls younger than age 18 from working in “compensated dating services,” or requiring JK business owners to register their employee rosters with local public safety commissions. NGOs helping girls in the JK business reported a link between these activities and the commercial sexual exploitation of children in prostitution.

In May, Honda Hiranao, a Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan Lower House Diet member from Hokkaido, reportedly said that it would be “wrong” for a man in his 50s like himself to be arrested for having consensual sex with a 14-year-old child. The remark came as the party discussed raising the age of consent from 13 to 16. In June, Honda publicly apologized and asked to withdraw his remarks, for which the party gave him a “severe verbal warning.” In July he resigned from the party and the Diet.

The country was a site for the production of child pornography and the exploitation of children by traffickers.

No law addresses the unfettered availability of sexually explicit cartoons, comics, and video games, some of which depicted scenes of violent sexual abuse and the rape of children.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The total Jewish population is approximately 3,000 to 4,000. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

A law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, intellectual, mental, or other disabilities affecting body and mind and bars infringement of their rights and interests on the grounds of disability in the public and private sectors. The law requires the public sector to provide reasonable accommodations and the private sector to make best efforts in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other services. The laws do not stipulate remedies for persons with disabilities who experience discriminatory acts, nor do they establish penalties for noncompliance. Accessibility laws mandate that construction projects for public-use buildings must include provisions for persons with disabilities. The government may grant low interest loans and tax benefits to operators of hospitals, theaters, hotels, and other public facilities if they upgrade or install features to accommodate persons with disabilities. Nonetheless, persons with disabilities faced physical barriers to accessing some public services.

Abuse of persons with disabilities was a serious concern. Persons with disabilities experienced abuse, including sexual abuse of women with disabilities, by family members, care-facility employees, and employers. Some persons with disabilities reported increased verbal abuse of persons with disabilities on the street.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

No law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS; nonbinding health ministry guidelines state that firms should not terminate or fail to hire individuals based on their HIV status. Courts have awarded damages to individuals fired from positions due to their HIV status.

Concerns about discrimination against individuals with HIV or AIDS and the stigma associated with the disease, and fear of dismissal, prevented many persons from disclosing their HIV or AIDS status.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

No law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and there are no penalties associated with such discrimination. In April, however, Mie became the country’s first prefecture to implement an ordinance to prohibit forcing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity and to ban disclosure of their sexual orientation or gender identity without their consent. The ordinance, however, has no penalties nor a remedy mechanism for abuses. LGBTQI+ advocacy organizations reported instances of discrimination, outing, bullying, harassment, and violence.

The LDP failed to advance a bill to promote greater understanding of the LGBTQI+ community due to strong opposition from influential party members to including the phrase “discrimination is unacceptable.” In May, LDP Lower House Member Yana Kazuo reportedly claimed that sexual minorities were “resisting the preservation of the species that occurs naturally in biological terms.”

All new textbooks included extensive information about LGBTQI+ and gender issues across nine subjects.

The law requires transgender persons to be without reproductive capacity, effectively requiring surgical sterilization for most persons to have their gender identity legally recognized. They also must meet additional conditions, including undergoing a psychiatric evaluation and receiving a diagnosis of “gender identity disorder,” a disorder not recognized in the International Classification of Diseases; being unmarried and older than age 20; and not having any children younger than age 20. If the conditions are met, pending approval by a family court, their gender can be recognized.

In 2019 (most recent available data), 948 individuals officially registered a new gender, the highest number since it was allowed in 2004, according to the Supreme Court. Advocates, however, continued to voice concern about discrimination and the strict conditions required for persons to change their sex in family registries.

In May the Tokyo High Court ruled that it was acceptable for the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry to restrict the use of women’s bathrooms by a transgender official, overturning a lower court ruling. The official has been diagnosed with gender-identity disorder but was still registered as male in her family registry. The official also claimed the ministry told persons at her workplace about her gender-identity disorder without her approval. The court ordered the state to pay 110,000 yen ($1,010) in damages for psychological pain caused by inappropriate remarks made by the person’s superiors.

In November 2020 the Tokyo High Court dismissed an appeal for damages from the parents of a student who fell from a school building in 2015 after his classmates disclosed he was gay; however, the court ruled that revealing the student’s sexual orientation was illegal.

According to a survey of more than 10,000 LGBTQI+ individuals, 38 percent reported being sexually harassed or assaulted. One respondent, a transgender man, reported that after being sexually assaulted by a man, he was subsequently refused help by a sexual violence counseling center and turned away by police when trying to file a report. The Ministry of Justice received 15 inquiries about potential human rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity in 2020, providing the inquirers with legal advice.

Stigma surrounding LGBTQI+ persons remained an impediment to self-reporting of discrimination or abuse.

There is one openly LGBTQI+ national legislator, a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of private-sector workers to form and join unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements and protects their rights to strike and bargain collectively.

The law restricts the right of public-sector workers and employees of state-owned enterprises to form and join unions of their choice. Public-sector employees may participate in public-service employee unions, which may negotiate collectively with their employers on wages, hours, and other conditions of employment. The International Labor Organization continued to raise concerns that the law restricts some public-sector employees’ labor rights. Public-sector employees do not have the right to strike; trade union leaders who incite a strike in the public sector may be dismissed and fined or imprisoned. Firefighting personnel and prison officers are prohibited from organizing and collectively bargaining.

Workers in sectors providing essential services, including electric power generation and transmission, transportation and railways, telecommunications, medical care and public health, and the postal service, must give 10 days’ advance notice to authorities before conducting a strike. Employees involved in providing essential services do not have the right to collective bargaining.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for the reinstatement of workers fired for legal union activities.

The government effectively enforced laws providing for freedom of association, collective bargaining, and legal strikes. Government oversight and penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights. Collective bargaining was common in the private sector.

In the case of a rights violation, a worker or union may lodge an objection with the Labor Committee, which may issue a relief order requiring action by the employer. If the employer fails to act, a plaintiff may then take the matter to a civil court. If a court upholds a relief order and determines that a violation of that order has occurred, it may impose a fine, imprisonment, or both.

The increasing use of short-term contracts undermined regular employment and frustrated organizing efforts.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law, however, does not expressly define what would constitute forced or compulsory labor, allowing for prosecutorial discretion when pursuing such cases.

Although the government generally effectively enforced the law, enforcement was lacking in some sectors, especially those in which foreign workers were commonly employed. Legal penalties for forced labor varied depending on its form, the victim(s), and the law used to prosecute such offenses. Some were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes. For example, the law criminalizes forced labor and prescribes penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, but it also allows for moderate fines in lieu of incarceration. NGOs argued that reliance on multiple and overlapping statutes hindered the government’s ability to identify and prosecute trafficking crimes, especially for cases involving forced labor with elements of psychological coercion.

Indications of forced labor persisted in the manufacturing, construction, and shipbuilding sectors, primarily in small- and medium-size enterprises employing foreign nationals through the Technical Intern Training Program (TITP). This program allows foreign workers to enter the country and work for up to five years in a de facto guest-worker program that many observers assessed to be rife with vulnerabilities to trafficking and other labor abuses.

Workers in the TITP experienced restrictions on freedom of movement and communication with persons outside the program, nonpayment of wages, excessive working hours, high debt to brokers in countries of origin, and retention of identity documents, despite government prohibitions on these practices. The Organization for Technical Intern Training oversees the TITP, including conducting on-site inspections of TITP workplaces. The organization maintained its increased workforce, including inspectors, but labor organizations continued to cite concerns that it was understaffed, insufficiently accessible to persons who do not speak Japanese, and ineffective at identifying labor rights violations.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. Children ages 15 to 18 may perform any job not designated as dangerous or harmful, such as handling heavy objects or cleaning, inspecting, or repairing machinery while in operation. They are also prohibited from working late night shifts. Children ages 13 to 15 years may perform “light labor” only, and children younger than age 13 may work only in the entertainment industry.

The government effectively enforced these laws. Penalties for child labor violations included fines and imprisonment and were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes.

Children were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children).

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, national origin, color, sex, ethnicity, disability, and age, but it does not explicitly prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status, or language. The government effectively enforced the applicable laws, and penalties for violations were commensurate with similar laws related to civil rights, such as the Public Offices Election Act.

The law prohibits gender-based discrimination in certain circumstances, including recruitment, promotion, training, and renewal of contracts. It does not address mandatory dress codes. The law imposes some restrictions on women’s employment. The law restricts women from performing certain tasks in underground mining as well as work that requires lifting very heavy objects or spraying 26 specified hazardous materials such as polychlorinated biphenyls. Additional restrictions apply to pregnant women and those who gave birth within the prior year.

The law mandates equal pay for men and women; however, the International Labor Organization viewed the law as too limited because it does not capture the concept of “work of equal value.” A private-sector survey of more than 24,000 companies in July showed the proportion of women in corporate managerial posts rose to a high of 8.9 percent. Women’s average monthly wage was approximately 74 percent that of men in 2020. The equal employment opportunity law includes prohibitions against policies or practices that have a discriminatory effect, even if unintended (called “indirect discrimination” in law), for all workers in recruitment, hiring, promotion, and changes of job type.

Women continued to express concern about unequal treatment in the workforce, including sexual and pregnancy harassment. The law does not criminalize sexual harassment, but the equal employment opportunity law requires companies to take measures to prevent it; asks companies to report incidents if they occur; and offers administrative advice, instructions, or guidance.

When a violation of equal employment opportunity law is alleged, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare may request the employer to report the matter, and the ministry may issue advice, instructions, or corrective guidance. If the employer fails to report or files a false report, the employer may be subject to a fine. If the employer does not follow the ministry’s guidance, the employer’s name may be publicly disclosed. Government hotlines in prefectural labor bureau equal employment departments handled consultations concerning sexual harassment and mediated disputes when possible. The Labor Ministry portal regarding harassment in the workplace showed, for example, that there were 87,670 cases of power harassment, 7,323 cases of sexual harassment, and 2,131 cases of maternity harassment reported to the prefectural labor consultation centers in 2019.

In June, a year after the implementation of a revised law requiring companies to take measures to prevent power harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation conducted a survey of 1,000 working men and women between the ages of 20 to 59 (not including corporate executives, entrepreneurs, or the self-employed) that showed limited progress. According to the survey, approximately one-third of workers had experienced some type of harassment in the workplace. Approximately 40 percent said their employer took no action when harassment occurred, and 43 percent of that group told no one because they thought it would not help.

In October 2020 the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare released a survey of 1,000 male and female graduates from universities or vocational schools during fiscal years 2017-19 on sexual harassment during their job search and internship. Overall, 25 percent of the respondents experienced sexual harassment; 9 percent reported being forced to have sexual relations. When asked what they did after the sexual harassment, 25 percent said they did nothing, and almost 8 percent said they gave up on the job search process.

The law mandates that both government and private companies hire at or above a designated minimum proportion of persons with disabilities (including mental disabilities). The government hiring rate is 2.5 percent; for private companies it is 2.2 percent. By law companies with more than 100 employees that do not hire the legal minimum percentage of persons with disabilities must pay a moderate fine per vacant position per month. Disability rights advocates claimed that some companies preferred to pay the mandated fine rather than hire persons with disabilities. There is no penalty for government entities failing to meet the legal minimum hiring ratio for persons with disabilities.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law establishes a minimum wage, which varies by prefecture but in all cases allows for earnings above the official poverty line. The government effectively enforces the minimum wage.

The law provides for a 40-hour workweek for most industries and, with exceptions, limits the number of overtime hours permitted in a fixed period. Violators may face penalties including fines and imprisonment commensurate with those for similar crimes.

Labor unions continued to criticize the government for failing to enforce the law regarding maximum working hours; workers, including those in government jobs, routinely exceeded the hours outlined in the law.

The Ministry of Labor conducted 24,042 on-site workplace inspections of workplaces they had reason to suspect excessive overtime was taking place during fiscal year 2020 (April 2020 to May 2021). It found violations at 8,904, or 37 percent of workplaces. The Ministry of Labor provided the violators with guidance for correction and improvement.

Workers employed on term-limited contracts, known as “nonregular” workers, continued to receive lower pay, fewer benefits, and less job security than their “regular” colleagues performing the same work. Most women in the workforce were employed as nonregular workers. The law requires employers to treat regular and nonregular workers equally when the job contents and the scope of expected changes to the job content and work location are the same. This law went into effect in April 2020 for large companies and in April 2021 for small- and medium-size enterprises.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government sets occupational safety and health (OSH) standards. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing laws and regulations governing wages, hours, and OSH standards in most industries. The National Personnel Authority covers government officials. The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry covers OSH standards for mining, and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism is responsible for OSH standards in the maritime industry.

The government effectively enforced OSH laws, and penalties for OSH violations were commensurate with those for similar crimes. While inspectors have the authority to suspend unsafe operations immediately in cases of flagrant safety violations, in lesser cases they may provide nonbinding guidance. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. Government officials acknowledged their resources were inadequate to oversee more than 4.3 million firms and that the number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance.

Reports of OSH and wage violations in the TITP are common; they included injuries due to unsafe equipment and insufficient training, nonpayment of wages and overtime compensation, excessive and often spurious salary deductions, forced repatriation, and substandard living conditions (also see section 7.b.).

There were 131,156 major industrial accidents in 2020 resulting in the death or injury of workers requiring them to be absent from work for more than four days (802 deaths). Falls, road traffic accidents, and injuries caused by heavy machinery were the most common causes of workplace fatalities. The Ministry of Heath, Labor, and Welfare also continued to grant formal recognition to victims of karoshi (death by overwork). Their former employers and the government paid compensation to family members when conditions were met.

Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare initiatives to prevent accidents and injuries in the workplace include checklists, educational materials, leaflets, and videos on the proper handling of equipment and use of safety gear, and promoting workspaces organized to minimize accidents.

Kazakhstan

Executive Summary

The government and constitution concentrate power in the presidency. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev became president after June 2019 elections that were marked by election-day irregularities including ballot stuffing and falsification of vote counts, according to an observation mission by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Former president Nursultan Nazarbayev enjoys broad, lifetime, legal authority over a range of government functions in his constitutional role as the First President. The executive branch controls the legislature and the judiciary, as well as regional and local governments. Changes or amendments to the constitution require presidential consent. On January 10, the country held elections for its lower house of parliament, the Mazhilis. Independent observers, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, stated that the elections lacked genuine competition and transparency.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs supervises the national police force, which has primary responsibility for internal security. The Committee for National Security oversees internal and border security, as well as national security, antiterrorism efforts, and the investigation and interdiction of illegal or unregistered groups such as extremist groups, military groups, political parties, religious groups, and trade unions. The committee reports directly to the president, and its chairman sits on the Security Council, chaired by First President Nazarbayev. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killing by or on behalf of the government; torture by and on behalf of the government; arbitrary detention; political prisoners; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; punishment of family members for offenses allegedly committed by an individual; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; and significant restrictions on workers’ freedom of association.

The government selectively prosecuted officials who committed abuses, especially in high-profile corruption cases. Nonetheless, corruption remained widespread, and impunity existed for many in positions of authority as well as for members of law enforcement agencies.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. Although the government took some steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses, impunity existed, especially where corruption was involved or there were personal relationships with government officials.

Corruption: Corruption was widespread in the executive branch, law enforcement agencies, local government administrations, the education system, and the judiciary, according to human rights NGOs. According to the Agency on Combatting Corruption, the largest numbers of officials held liable for corruption in the first six months of the year were in police, finance, and agriculture.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Agency on Combatting Corruption, the KNB, and the economic investigations service of the Finance Ministry were responsible for combating corruption. The KNB investigated corruption crimes committed by officers of the security services, the anticorruption bureau, and the military.

The Agency on Combatting Corruption reported that from January to September, it registered and investigated 921 corruption cases; 101 officials were detained, and 101 were arrested. The agency sent 725 cases to courts for prosecution, and 570 individuals were convicted. Of those convicted, 138 were convicted for taking bribes, 237 for giving bribes, 12 for serving as intermediaries, 78 for fraud, 42 for embezzlement, and 44 for abuse of power.

On September 16, an appellate court in Nur-Sultan convicted Berik Sharip, the former chairman of the state-owned pharmaceuticals distribution monopoly SK-Pharmacia, on charges of abuse of power related to medicine procurements during the COVID-19 pandemic health emergency. The court sentenced Sharip to three and one-half years in prison. In August, Sharip was convicted on illegal weapons charges.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups operated with some freedom to investigate and publish their findings on human rights cases, although some government restrictions existed for human rights NGOs. International and local human rights groups reported the government monitored NGO activities on sensitive topics and practiced harassment, including police visits to and surveillance of NGO offices, personnel, and family members. Government officials often were uncooperative or nonresponsive to questions from NGOs.

Authorities had a mixed approach to relations with NGOs. Some NGOs faced difficulties in acquiring office space and technical facilities depending on their scope of work and relationship with authorities. On the other hand, government leaders participated – and regularly included NGOs – in roundtables and other public events on democracy and human rights.

National security laws prohibit foreigners, international organizations, NGOs, and other nonprofit organizations from engaging in political activities. The government prohibited international organizations from funding unregistered entities.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Presidential Commission on Human Rights is a consultative and advisory body that includes top officials and members of the public appointed by the president. The commission reviews and investigates complaints, issues recommendations, and monitors implementation of international human rights conventions. The commission does not have legal authority to remedy human rights abuses or implement its recommendations.

The commissioner on human rights (ombudsman) is recommended by the president and is elected by the Senate for a five-year term. The ombudsman reviews and investigates complaints concerning abuses of human rights by officials and organizations. The ombudsman issues recommendations, publishes reports on human rights, and serves as the chair of the Coordinating Council of the NPM.

The ombudsman did not have authority to investigate complaints concerning decisions of the president, heads of government agencies, parliament, cabinet, Constitutional Council, Prosecutor General’s Office, CEC, or courts, although the ombudsman may investigate complaints against individuals. The Ombudsman’s Office has authority to appeal to the president, cabinet, or parliament to resolve citizens’ complaints. The ombudsman cooperated with international human rights organizations and NGOs; met with government officials concerning human rights abuses; visited certain facilities, such as military units and prisons; and publicized the results of investigations. The Ombudsman’s Office also published an annual human rights report. During the year the office occasionally briefed media and issued reports on complaints it had investigated.

Domestic human rights observers stated that the Ombudsman’s Office and the human rights commission did not have the authority to stop human rights abuses or punish abusers. The commission and ombudsman avoided addressing underlying structural problems that led to human rights abuses, although they advanced human rights by publicizing statistics and individual cases. The commission and ombudsman aided citizens with less controversial social problems and matters involving lower-level elements of the bureaucracy.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes sexual abuse and rape, and imposes penalties up to eight years of imprisonment, or life imprisonment if the crime was committed against a minor. There were reports of police and judicial reluctance to act on reports of rape, particularly in spousal rape cases. According to human rights defenders, fewer than 1 percent of rape complaints made it to court.

On February 9, a court in Almaty sentenced both a former prosecutor and a former manager of a local bank to eight years of imprisonment for committing a rape in 2019. Police initially refused to record the complaint when the victim first reported the crime but later officially registered the case due to her lawyer’s persistence. Police resistance, procrastination, attempts to hush up the complainant, and other hurdles delayed the investigation. The victim faced pressure and intimidation from the assailants’ relatives who tried to force her to withdraw the complaint.

On August 10, a court in Almaty convicted former KNB captain Sabyrzhan Narynbayev for attempted rape and sentenced him to eight years of imprisonment. In September 2020 Narynbayev gave a ride to Aiya Umurzakova and on the way to her village he assaulted and beat her, tried to rape her, and threatened her life. Lawyers persuaded her to file a complaint with police. Before and during the court proceedings, Umurzakova reported pressure and threats from the assailant and his family and attempts to persuade her to drop the case by offering money. A fraud case was launched against her for allegedly taking money from the defendant to withdraw her complaint but afterwards refusing to do so. The court found Umurzakova not guilty of fraud.

NGOs estimated that more than 400 women died annually from spousal violence. The law specifies various types of domestic violence, such as physical, psychological, sexual, and economic violence. It outlines the responsibilities of local and national governments and NGOs in supporting victims of domestic violence. The law has mechanisms for issuing restraining orders and provides for administrative detention of alleged abusers for 24 hours. The law sets the maximum sentence for conviction of spousal assault and battery at 10 years in prison, the same as for assault. The law permits prohibiting offenders from living with the victim if the offender has alternatives. It allows victims of domestic violence to receive appropriate care regardless of the place of residence. The law replaces financial penalties with administrative arrest if having the perpetrator pay fines damages the victim’s interests.

Research conducted by the Ministry of National Economy indicated that most victims of partner abuse never tell anyone of their abuse, due in part to social stigma. Police intervened in family disputes only when they believed the abuse was life threatening. Police often encouraged the two parties to reconcile. NGOs also noted that the lenient penalty for conviction of domestic violence – an administrative offense with a maximum sentence of 15 days’ imprisonment – did not deter even previously convicted offenders.

Police reported that the number of domestic violence offenses decreased 8 percent following a significant increase in 2020. The law was changed to shift the responsibility to police for collecting evidence for these offenses; previously it was the responsibility of victims. Penalties were increased and reconciliation procedures were reformed.

The government maintained domestic violence shelters in each region. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, there were 49 crisis centers, 39 of which had shelters.

Activists criticized the government for failing to ensure that all persons in vulnerable situations were protected against domestic violence. Even when victims reported violence, activists stated police were reluctant to act. Police sometimes did not issue restraining orders to assailants and tried to dissuade the victim from filing a complaint, creating an environment of impunity for aggressors. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, reforms included a formal training for police and judges on domestic violence and a repeat-offender plan that increased the use of restraining orders and expanded penalties to include imprisonment.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Although prohibited by law, the practice of kidnapping women and girls for forced marriage continued in some remote areas. The law prescribes a prison sentence of seven to 12 years for conviction of kidnapping. A person who voluntarily releases an abductee is absolved of criminal responsibility; consequently, a typical bride-kidnapper is not necessarily held criminally responsible. Law enforcement agencies often advised abductees to resolve their situations themselves. According to civil society organizations, making a complaint to police could be a very complex process and often subjected families and victims to humiliation.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment remained a problem. No law protects women from sexual harassment, and only the use of force or taking advantage of a victim’s physical helplessness during sexual assault carries criminal liability. There were no reports of any prosecutions. Victims of sexual harassment in the workplace were hesitant to file complaints due to shame or fear of job loss.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. There were no reports of educational problems related to women’s reproductive health and hygiene. Access to government-provided sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors was limited. Women were able to access emergency contraception as part of clinical rape management, but most women privately procured such treatment at their own expense to avoid state-run clinics’ bureaucratic examination requirements.

Discrimination: The constitution and law provide for equal rights and freedoms for men and women. The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, but discrimination remained a problem. Significant salary gaps between men and women remained. According to observers, women in rural areas faced greater discrimination than women in urban areas and suffered from a greater incidence of domestic violence, limited opportunities for education and employment, limited access to information, and discrimination in land rights and property rights.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race or ethnic origin. Ethnic minorities, however, faced problems in various areas of life. Only three of the 23 cabinet members were not ethnic Kazakhs. Ethnic minorities were underrepresented in other government bodies as well. Human rights observers noted that ethnic minorities were not incorporated into the country’s social and political mechanisms and their role was shrinking. Observers also noted that the government should – but did not – provide minorities equal participation in social life, equal access to government service, equal business opportunities, and most importantly, equal treatment before the law.

Trials continued in response to the February 2020 riots between ethnic Kazakh and ethnic Dungan residents in Qorday Province. On April 27, 51 persons were tried and charged with incitement to mass riots, extortion, robbery, murder, encroachment on the life of law enforcement officers, and “illegal acquisition, transfer, sale, storage, transportation, carrying weapons, ammunition, explosives and explosive devices.” Some 60 lawyers took part in the defense. The court convicted 19 individuals convicted of more serious charges and sentenced them to prison terms from five to 20 years. The court convicted 31 individuals of lesser charges and sentenced them to one year to five years’ imprisonment, but the sentences were suspended because they paid compensation for damages. One of the suspects was acquitted for lack of evidence.

In August 2020 the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination reviewed information concerning the Qorday incident and requested that the government provide a response before October 2020 in order to: “conduct [an] effective, impartial and transparent investigation of the events”; ensure effective protection of the Dungan minority; provide reparation, including health and psychological support; and provide access by independent observers to the Qorday District. On April 30, the UN committee chair again requested a response. By year’s end there was no publicly released response from the government.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory and from one’s parents. The government registers all births upon receipt of the proper documentation, which may come from the parents, other interested persons, or the medical facility where the birth occurred. Children born to undocumented mothers without legal status or identification were denied birth certificates.

Education: Some children from migrant families, particularly undocumented migrants and stateless persons, could not enroll in school due to their lack of legal status.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was a serious problem. According to a survey, 40 percent of children in institutions and 18 percent of children attending regular schools stated they were subjected to physical abuse by adults. Children frequently faced abusive, cruel, and disparaging treatment in families, schools (particularly special schools for delinquent children), and boarding schools. The law provides for eight to 15 years in prison for individuals convicted of forcing boys or girls younger than age 18 to have sexual intercourse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, but it may be reduced to 16 in the case of pregnancy or mutual agreement, including by parents or legal guardians. According to the UN Population Fund, approximately 3,000 early and forced marriages occurred annually. Many couples first married in mosques and then registered officially when the bride reached the legal age. The government did not take action to address the problem.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law does not specify the minimum age for consensual sex. UNICEF reported that data on sexual abuse of children, child prostitution, child pornography, child trafficking, bride kidnapping, and forced marriage of girls remained scarce, making it difficult to assess the scale of rights violations.

The law criminalizes the production and distribution of child pornography and provides administrative penalties to cover the sale of pornographic materials to minors. The country also retains administrative penalties for child pornography in addition to the criminal penalties. Perpetrators convicted of sexual offenses against minors received a lifetime ban on working with children.

Displaced Children: Human rights observers noted there were many street children, mainly in large cities. Street children were referred to centers for delinquent children or support centers for children in difficult life situations. Some were returned to their families. According to the 2019 Report of the Committee for Protection of Children Rights of the Ministry of Education and Science, there were 15 “adaptation” centers for delinquent children and 17 support centers for children in difficult life situations. More than 4,000 children were held in the adaptation centers, and more than 2,000 in the support centers.

Institutionalized Children: Incidents of child abuse in state-run institutions such as orphanages, boarding schools, and detention facilities for delinquent children were “not rare,” according to government sources. NGOs stated one-half the children in orphanages and other institutions suffered from abuse by teachers or other children. According to the Ministry of Education’s Committee for Protection of Children Rights, the number of orphans in orphanages decreased from 6,223 in 2017 to 4,606 by the end of 2020. The government continued its policy of closing orphanages and referring children to foster families and other forms of home care. Activists criticized the policy as lacking a clear plan for children’s deinstitutionalization, properly trained staff, infrastructure, and funds. Activists alleged that authorities focused on the closure of orphanages instead of working with families to prevent the placement of children in institutions. Activists also stated critical decisions on the removal of a child from its family and placement in an institution were based on police reports, not social workers’ reports.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

Leaders of the Jewish community estimated that the country’s Jewish population was 10,000 persons. They reported no incidents of anti-Semitism by the government or in society.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, and in the provision of other government services, but significant discrimination occurred. Human rights defenders were concerned regarding gaps in the country’s legislation. The law does not give a clear definition of discrimination, making it impossible to protect the rights of persons with disabilities, particularly in instances of indirect discrimination. The government took steps to remedy some barriers to persons with disabilities, including providing access to information. NGOs stated implementation of the law on disability was poor. NGOs also noted ineffective implementation of some government disability programs, sometimes marred by corruption and a lack of trained staff.

Employment for persons with disabilities remained a problem. Activists noted that employers did not have sufficient incentives to hire persons with disabilities.

The law requires companies to set aside 3 percent of their jobs for persons with disabilities; nevertheless, civil society reported that persons with disabilities faced difficulty integrating into society and finding employment.

Human rights observers noted multiple types of discrimination against persons with disabilities. Doctors discouraged women who use wheelchairs from having children. The management of prisoners with disabilities in detention facilities remained a serious problem.

There are no regulations regarding the rights of patients in mental hospitals. Human rights observers stated this situation led to widespread abuse of patients’ rights. NGOs reported that patients often experienced poor conditions and a complete lack of privacy. Citizens with mental disabilities may be committed to state-run institutions without their consent or judicial review, and the government committed persons younger than age 18 with the permission of their families.

Members of the NPM may visit mental hospitals to monitor conditions. According to an NPM report, most mental hospitals required extensive renovations. Other observed problems included a shortage of personnel, unsatisfactory sanitary conditions, poor food supply, overcrowding, and lack of light and fresh air.

Education authorities reported that 55 percent of schools were equipped and staffed for inclusive education of children with specific needs. Independent observers alleged that the actual number of such schools was in fact lower. There were no statistics on the number of children with disabilities who attended preschool institutions. Of children with specific needs between ages seven and 18, 20% attended regular schools. The majority attended special education classes or were homeschooled. Some parents refused to send children with disabilities to school and viewed their education as unnecessary. Some children with Down syndrome were able to attend privately funded specialized education centers, but the centers had limited capacity, which resulted in waiting periods of up to a year and one-half.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS, but stigma remained and resulted in societal discrimination that continued to affect access to information, services, treatment, and care. The National Center for AIDS provided free diagnosis and treatment to all citizens.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

There were reports of anti-LGBTQI+ violence, but there were no government statistics on discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The most frequent forms of abuse were verbal insults, harassment, interference in private life, and physical assaults. Activists reported that beating, extortion, and harassment of LGBTQI+ individuals were not uncommon, although typically unreported.

Prosecutions of anti-LGBTQI+ violence were rare. NGOs reported members of the LGBTQI+ community seldom turned to law enforcement agencies to report violence against them because they feared hostility, ridicule, and further violence. They were reluctant to use mechanisms such as the national commissioner for human rights to seek remedies for harms inflicted because they did not trust these mechanisms to safeguard their identities, especially regarding employment.

On May 29 and July 29, training events related to LGBTQI+ rights conducted by the NGO Feminita were disrupted by aggressive groups of men in Shymkent and Karaganda, respectively. In both cases police removed the activists from their rented private meeting space, ostensibly to protect them from further violence. Feminita posted a video on social media of police pulling one Feminita member by the hair into an unmarked police car in Skymkent. In both cases Feminita activists reported that police treated them not as victims but as criminal suspects. No members of the mob that disrupted the training sessions were arrested or charged in either city.

Human rights activists reported that the COVID-19 pandemic situation also impacted LGBTQI+ communities negatively. At home more often due to public health restrictions, LGBTQI+ persons often endured stress and abuse from family members who disapproved of their status. Transgender persons were vulnerable to abuse during security checks by police patrols due to their lack of appropriate identification. Transgender persons were among the first whom employers dismissed from jobs because they often worked without official contracts. Due to their lack of appropriate documentation and contracts, transgender persons were often not eligible for relief programs offered by the government to support needy individuals.

Although a process for gender reassignment exists, the law requires a transgender person to fulfill psychiatric and physical requirements (such as undergoing gender reassignment surgery) before being able to receive identity documents that align with the person’s outward gender. Many individuals lived with nonconforming documents for years and reported problems with securing employment, housing, and health care. The law includes behavioral disorders as reasons for denial of gender reassignment, which expanded the categories of persons who could be denied such treatments.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for workers’ rights to form and join unions, but it imposes restrictions, such as a requirement that registered unions be represented in at least half of the country’s regions.

The government exercised considerable influence on organized labor and favored state-affiliated unions over independent ones. The Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan (FTUK) is the largest national trade union association, with approximately 90 percent of union members on its rolls. In 2018 the International Trade Union Confederation suspended the membership of the FTUK due to a lack of independence.

The law provides for the right of workers to bargain collectively. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, and a court may order reinstatement of a worker fired for union activity. Penalties for breaking these provisions include fines and imprisonment of up to 75 days, commensurate with penalties of other laws involving denials of civil rights. According to the FTUK, as of January, 15,915 companies had collective bargaining agreements; 1.5 million workers, or 90.2 percent of FTUK members, labored with collective bargaining agreements in 2020. The number of collective agreements countrywide increased 19.1 percent from 120,200 in 2019 to 143,571 in 2020, the latest available data.

The country’s three national-level labor unions include the FTUK, with more than 1.6 million members, Commonwealth of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (Amanat) with 300,000 members, and Kazakhstan Confederation of Labor (KCL) with up to 800,000 members. On February 5, the Specialized Interdistrict Economic Court in Shymkent suspended the independent Fuel and Energy Workers Union for six months after finding the union’s original registration was “improper,” as it did not have representation in at least half of the country’s regions. The union remained unregistered as of the end of the year. The geographical representation requirement often prevented the registration and operation of independent unions.

The law provides in principle for the right to strike but imposes onerous restrictions that make strikes unlikely. By law there is a variety of circumstances in which strikes are illegal. Workers may not strike unless a labor dispute is unresolvable through compulsory arbitration procedures. Decisions to strike must be taken in a meeting where at least one-half of an enterprise’s workers are present. A written notice announcing a strike must be submitted to the employer at least five days in advance.

In June, Amanat chairman Andrey Prigor reported that all strikes tend to be spontaneous because a reconciliation commission may take months to initiate the strike in accordance with the law. The extensive legal requirements and delays gave employers time to pressure or even fire activists.

A blanket legal restriction bars certain occupations from conducting a strike. Military and other security service members, emergency medical, fire, and rescue crews, as well as those who operate “dangerous” production facilities are forbidden to strike. By law such strikes are illegal. Workers employed in railways, transport, communications, civil aviation, health care, and public utilities may strike if they maintain minimum services to the public. Employers may fire striking workers after a court declares a strike illegal. The government may file criminal charges against labor organizers for calls to participate in strikes declared illegal by the court. Officials are suspected of inflicting violence in response to supposedly unlawful attempts to associate.

Disagreements between unions and their employers must be presented to a tripartite commission for arbitration if the disagreement cannot be settled between the employer and the union. The commission is composed of representatives of the government, labor unions, and employer associations. State-affiliated and independent labor unions participate in tripartite commissions. The tripartite commission is responsible for developing and signing annual collective agreements governing most aspects of labor relations.

In May 2020 the FTUK, Amanat, and KCL established a working group to draft the general agreement for labor relations for 2021-23. They recommended that the government and employers increase the minimum wage, change the minimum subsistence allowance, establish a minimum basket of consumer goods, and negotiate on other social matters.

Foreign workers have the right to join unions, but the law prohibits the operation of foreign unions and the financing of unions by foreign entities such as foreign citizens, governments, and international organizations. Irregular migrants and self-employed individuals residing in the country were not exempt from the laws regulating union participation.

Restrictions on independent unions, government interference in union affairs, and gaps in the law demonstrated a lack of respect for freedom of association.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, except when it is a consequence of a court sentence or a condition of a state of emergency or martial law. Penalties were commensurate with those for analogous crimes, such as kidnapping.

The law provides for the punishment of convicted traffickers and those who facilitated forced exploitation and trafficking, including labor recruiters who hired workers through deliberately fraudulent or deceptive offers with the intent to subject workers to forced labor, and employers or labor agents who confiscated passports or travel documents to keep workers in a state of involuntary servitude. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection is responsible for regulating migrant labor. The ministry verifies employer compliance by conducting checks of employers to reveal labor law violations, including provisions related to exploitation of foreign workers. Labor inspectors report suspected trafficking or forced labor to the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the local police. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is responsible for formally identifying victims of forced labor and sexual exploitation and initiating criminal proceedings against perpetrators.

In 2019 the president signed a revised moratorium on government inspections for 2020-23 that reduced previous restrictions on labor inspectors. The moratorium allows inspections of medium and large businesses. In addition inspectors’ job descriptions include the responsibility for reporting potential labor trafficking cases to law enforcement agencies. Indicators for the identification of forced labor are part of their inspectors’ checklists.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs is responsible for identifying victims of forced labor and sexual exploitation and initiating criminal proceedings. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection is responsible for handling migrant labor. Compared with previous years, the Ministry of Internal Affairs generally enforced laws to identify foreign and domestic victims of labor trafficking. Authorities identified 17 foreign victims in 2020, compared with three victims in 2019. Police conducted interagency operations to find victims of forced labor. Identification of forced labor victims increased from 40 victims identified in 2019 to 88 victims identified in 2020, of whom 67 were victims of sexual exploitation, and 21 were victims of labor exploitation, including four domestic and 17 foreign victims.

In 2020 police investigated 72 criminal cases of human trafficking, and courts convicted 11 traffickers, including eight for sexual exploitation and three for labor trafficking crimes, marking the first time in three years the government obtained forced labor convictions. During the first nine months of the year, police opened 31 criminal cases, including six trafficking-in-persons cases, 11 trafficking-in-minors cases, one case of kidnapping for the purpose of exploitation, three cases of illegal deprivation of freedom for the purpose of exploitation, four cases of engagement of minors into prostitution, and six cases of engagement of a person into prostitution.

Migrant workers were considered most at risk for forced or compulsory labor. According to the International Organization for Migration, on average 1.2 million migrant laborers register in the country every year, including seasonal workers. In 2019, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 1.6 million persons were registered as migrants in the country. The majority of migrant workers came from Uzbekistan, with lesser numbers from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Migrant workers worked primarily in agriculture and construction. Some migrant workers suffered difficult working conditions, with long hours and withheld wages.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the government assisted migrants in maintaining their legal status and in returning to their home countries. The government coordinated with the governments of the other Central Asian countries and local NGOs to open border crossings and facilitate the safe return of labor migrants to their home countries, including those transiting from Russia.

In 2020 parliament ratified the Agreement Between the Governments of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan on Employment and Protection of Migrant Worker Nationals of Uzbekistan in Kazakhstan and Protection of Migrant Worker Nationals of Kazakhstan in Uzbekistan. The agreement strengthens regulation of migration flows and efforts to prevent forced labor by facilitating migrants’ access to government services and providing for mutual recognition of educational qualifications.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum age for employment is 16. With parental permission, however, children ages 14 through 16 may perform light work that does not interfere with their health or education. The law prohibits minors from engaging in hazardous work and restricts the length of the workday for employees younger than 18.

The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor; however, gaps existed in the legal framework to protect children adequately from the worst forms of child labor. Prohibitions against the worst forms of child labor are prosecuted as criminal offenses. Conviction of crimes involving the worst forms of child labor, such as violations of the minimum age employment in hazardous work, engaging minors in pornographic shows or production of materials containing pornographic images of minors, coercion of minors into commercial sexual exploitation, kidnapping or illegal deprivation of the freedom of a minor for the purpose of exploitation, and trafficking in minors, are punishable by penalties that are commensurate with those for analogous crimes such as kidnapping. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is responsible for investigating criminal offenses and training criminal police in investigating the worst forms of child labor.

The law provides noncriminal punishments for violations that do not include the worst forms of child labor, including written warnings, suspensions, terminations, the withdrawal of licenses for specific types of activities, administrative penalties or fines, and administrative arrest (only by court decision and only up to 15 days for violation of legislation in relation to minors). Such violations include employment of minors without an employment agreement, which is punishable by fine and suspension of the employer’s license. Untimely or incorrect payment of salaries, failing to provide vacation or time off, excessive work hours, and discrimination in the workplace are also punishable by fines. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection was responsible for enforcement of child labor law and for administrative offenses punishable by fines.

The government did not consistently enforce the law. Instances of work by children below the country’s minimum age of employment were reported in agriculture, including producing vegetables, weeding, and collecting worms; in construction; in the markets and streets, including transporting and selling items; in domestic work; in gas stations, car washing, and working as bus conductors; or as waiters in restaurants. These forms of labor were determined by local legislation to be potentially hazardous and were categorized as the worst forms of child labor. The majority of such situations occurred on family farms or in family businesses.

In the first six months of the year, police identified 11 cases of trafficking in minors and four cases of engagement of minors into commercial sexual exploitation.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Laws and regulations prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on gender, age, disability, race, ethnicity, language, place of residence, religion, political opinion, affiliation with tribe or class, public associations, or property, social, or official status. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination with respect to sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV-positive status, or having other communicable diseases. Transgender individuals are effectively barred from working in law enforcement or serving in the military. The law prohibits persons with specific, listed medical conditions or diseases from working in law enforcement agencies or serving in the military.

The government did not effectively enforce the law and regulations on discrimination. NGOs reported no government body assumed responsibility for implementing antidiscrimination legislation. Most discrimination violations are an administrative offense punishable by a fine that is not commensurate with those for similar violations. Cases such as illegal termination of labor contracts due to pregnancy, disability, or minority status are considered criminal offenses and are punishable by penalties that are commensurate with violations related to civil rights, such as election interference.

Discrimination occurred with respect to employment and occupation for persons with disabilities, transgender persons, orphans, and former convicts. Transgender persons experienced workplace discrimination and were repeatedly fired for their gender identity. Disability NGOs reported that obtaining employment was difficult for persons with disabilities. The law does not require equal pay for equal work for women and men.

On October 12, the president signed into law amendments that removed prohibitions on women from performing work in difficult, harmful, and hazardous working conditions. The list previously had prohibited women from working in 213 professions and jobs.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The national monthly minimum wage was above the poverty line. Every region estimated its own poverty line. The law stipulates the normal workweek should not exceed 40 hours. It limits heavy manual labor or hazardous work to 36 hours per week. The law limits overtime to two hours per day, or one hour per day for heavy manual labor, and requires overtime to be paid at least at a 50 percent premium. The law prohibits compulsory overtime and any overtime for work in hazardous conditions. The law provides that labor agreements may stipulate the length of working time, holidays, and paid annual leave for each worker. By law employees are entitled to 24 days of paid annual leave per year.

During the summer multiple strikes took place in the oil services sector in Mangystau Region regarding wage discrepancies among direct employees of oil companies, prime contractors, and subcontractors. The strikes followed changes made in December 2020 to the contract of the state-owned oil company KazMunaiGaz that stated contracted employees’ wages should not be lower than the wages of the host company’s employees with similar job responsibilities and qualifications. In September, KazMunaiGaz CEO Alike Aidarbayev stated subcontractors misinterpreted the changes, which do not apply to all subcontracted companies.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government set occupational health and safety standards that were appropriate to the main industries. The law requires employers to suspend work that could endanger the life or health of workers and to warn workers of any harmful or dangerous work conditions or the possibility of any occupational disease. Occupational safety and health standards were set and conditions were inspected by government experts. The law specifically grants workers the right to remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without suffering adverse employment action. In June the government approved the Occupational Health and Safety Action Plan, effective until 2025. The plan aims to achieve a 10 percent reduction of industrial injuries and a 20 percent decrease in the number of workers laboring in hazardous conditions.

In some regions doctors complained of a shortage of medical equipment, test kits, and health specialists in rural hospitals. A doctor from Jambyl Province reportedly stated she was the only infectious disease specialist on hand to deal with COVID-19 patients at the main hospital in the Merki District, which has an estimated 85,000 inhabitants.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection enforced standards for minimum wages, workhour restrictions, overtime, and occupational safety and health. By law labor inspectors have the right to conduct announced and unannounced inspections of workplaces to detect violations. Both types of inspections take place only after written notification, except in cases where the inspection is conducted based on a request from law enforcement authorities or a complaint related to certain extreme health and safety hazards. From January to June, inspectors conducted 1,900 inspections and detected 3,000 violations of the law. An FTUK analysis concluded that violations centered on wage arrears or delays, illegal or forced layoffs, labor safety, violations of collective agreements, unequal payments, work conditions of local and foreign workers, and incorrect indexation of wages. The absence of local labor unions contributed to some of these violations.

The law provides for so-called employer’s declarations. Under this system, labor inspectors may extend a certificate of trust to enterprises that complied with labor legislation requirements. Certified enterprises are exempt from labor inspections for three years. In the opinion of labor rights activists, the practice may worsen labor conditions and conceal problems.

By law any enterprise or company may form a production council to address labor safety problems between representatives of an employer and employees. These councils are eligible to assign technical labor inspectors to conduct their own inspections of the employees’ work conditions, and their resolutions are mandatory for both employers and employees. In April there were 15,575 production councils and 17,595 volunteer labor inspectors, according to the government.

The government did not consistently enforce the law. Violations of law are considered administrative offenses, not criminal ones, and penalties for violations of minimum wage and overtime law were not commensurate with crimes such as fraud. For example a minimal punishment for conviction of fraud is a substantial fine or imprisonment for up to two years, while violations of wage or overtime payment provisions result in fines. Penalties for violations of occupational health and safety law were also not commensurate with crimes such as negligence. There were reports some employers ignored regulations concerning occupational health and safety.

Regarding workplace injuries, 520 workers in the processing sector were injured, 349 employees in mining were injured, and 229 workers in the construction sector sustained injuries. The highest number of fatalities – 54 workers – was recorded in the construction sector, followed by 39 fatalities in the processing sector and 24 fatalities in mining. The government attributed many labor-related deaths to antiquated equipment, insufficient detection and prevention of occupational diseases in workers engaged in harmful labor, and disregard for safety regulations. Experts also cited low qualifications of workers, a deficit of qualified safety engineers, and corruption in the companies as other leading reasons for occupational accidents. The most dangerous jobs were in mining, construction, and oil and gas, according to an expert analysis of occupations with the highest fatalities. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection reported that in 2020, 23 percent of employees worked in hazardous conditions.

According to the FTUK, in 78 percent of fatal accidents in 2020, employers were blamed for violating occupational health and safety regulations. Some companies tried to avoid payments to injured workers. Companies may refuse to compensate workers for nonfatal industrial injuries if the worker did not comply with labor safety requirements.

In August the Karaganda Labor Inspection Department found liable the management of steel producer ArcelorMittal Temirtau (AMT) for a May 26 accident in which two crane operators sustained severe burns after a cast iron ladle fell during crane lifting operations, spilling its contents onto the two operators. The Karaganda Labor Inspection Department assigned 100 percent of the blame for the accident to AMT for unsatisfactory organization of labor and use of broken equipment.

Informal Sector: The government reported in 2020 that 1.22 million citizens of the country’s workforce of nine million persons worked in the informal economy. Government statistics defined the informally employed as those who were not registered as either employed or unemployed. The government also categorized those individuals who were self-paid or self-employed as working in the informal economy. A Ministry of Finance spokesperson separately reported during the year that up to one-third of workers were engaged in the informal sector. Informal workers were concentrated in the retail trade, transport services, agriculture, real estate, beauty and hair dressing salons, and laundry and dry-cleaning businesses. Small entrepreneurs and their employees for the most part worked without health, social, or pension benefits, and did not pay into the social security system.

Luxembourg

Executive Summary

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has a constitutional monarchy and a democratic parliamentary form of government with a popularly elected unicameral parliament called the Chamber of Deputies. The prime minister is the leader of the dominant party or party coalition in parliament. In 2018 the country held parliamentary elections that observers considered free and fair.

The Grand Ducal Police maintain internal security and report to the Ministry of Internal Security. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were no reports that members of the security forces committed abuses.

There were no reports of significant human rights abuses.

The government had mechanisms in place to identify and punish officials who may commit human rights abuses.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the laws effectively. There were no reports of government corruption during the year.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The government bodies dealing with human rights are the Ombudsman, Consultative Commission for Human Rights, the Ombudsman Committee for the Rights of Children, the Interministerial Committee on Human Rights, and the Center for Equal Treatment, which monitors issues related to discrimination based on race or ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, religion or beliefs, disability, and age. All of these organizations are government-funded and are composed of government appointees, but they act independently of the government and of one another. The government provided resources for the continuous and unrestricted operation of the committees. As consultative bodies in the legislative process, the committees commented on the government’s bills and amendments to laws concerning human rights. They were also active in outreach efforts, informing the public about human rights and publishing annual reports on their activities.

The independent, government-wide Ombudsman (which is different from the Ombudsman Committee for the Rights of Children) handles human rights complaints against government institutions but only mediates between citizens and the public sector. It cannot receive complaints against the private sector, although many assistance institutions are private or run by not-for-profit organizations that often received government support. The Center for Equal Treatment can receive complaints against the private sector but cannot take cases to court on behalf of victims.

The Interministerial Committee on Human Rights seeks to improve interministerial cooperation and coordination on human rights issues and to strengthen the country’s internal and external human rights policies. It monitors the implementation of the country’s human rights obligations in consultation with national human rights institutions and civil society. Every ministry has a seat on the committee, which is coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and chaired by the ambassador-at-large for human rights.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape of both women and men, including spousal rape, and the government enforced the law effectively. Penalties for violations range from five to 10 years’ imprisonment. The law prohibits domestic violence, and the government effectively enforced the law. The law is gender-neutral and provides for the removal of abusers from their residences for a 14-day period that can be extended once for an additional three months upon request of the victim. Penalties may include fines and imprisonment. Police are required to investigate if an NGO reports having been approached by an individual for assistance in cases involving domestic abuse.

According to the most recent report published during the year, authorities investigated 144 accusations of indecent assault and 116 cases of rape in 2020, representing modest increases over the previous year. For example a man was taken to court on September 28 for allegedly having raped five women. The case remained open as of October.

Police also intervened 943 times in domestic violence situations, and prosecutors authorized 278 evictions of the abuser from the domestic home as a result of these incidents, which represent an increase of 11.1 percent and 12.8 percent, respectively, over the same period in the previous year. For example, after being presented a restraining order prohibiting entry to his domicile in Diekirch, due to charges of domestic violence, a man violated the restraining order to confront his spouse. On December 17, 2020, the man was detained, and the case is under judicial review.

The government funded organizations that provided shelter, counseling, psychosocial assistance, and hotlines. The government provided financial assistance to victims of domestic violence.

The Ministry of Equality between Women and Men operated a prevention website to raise awareness against the different types of violence against women, including psychological, sexual, and domestic violence, and provided victims with telephone numbers available for assistance services as well as contact information for police.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits gender-based sexual harassment and requires employers to protect employees from such harassment. Disciplinary measures against offenders included dismissal. The law considers an employer’s failure to take measures to protect employees from sexual harassment a breach of contract, and an affected employee is entitled to paid leave until the situation is rectified. In 2020 the Labor Inspection Court received no cases of sexual harassment in the workplace.

In its 2020 report to parliament and the government, the Center for Equal Treatment (CET) again noted that the law does not give the Court for Inspection of Labor and Mines (ITM) the means to punish perpetrators of sexual harassment, even though the court is responsible for applying provisions against sexual harassment in the workplace.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Vulnerable populations such as individuals with disabilities and minorities must provide informed consent to medical treatment affecting reproductive health.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception is available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The government enforced the law effectively. In 2020 the CET reported handling 39 cases of potential gender-based discrimination.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The law provides for equal treatment and prohibits any form of discrimination, direct or indirect, based on religion, disability, age, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity. The scope of the law covers places of work, school, and the public sphere.

The CET recorded 44 cases of alleged discrimination involving race or ethnicity in its 2020 report.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is governed by the principle of descent, according to which a father or mother who is a citizen automatically conveys citizenship to offspring at birth. The law allows for citizenship via naturalization and allows dual citizenship. Citizenship for minor children is automatically conveyed when a parent naturalizes. During the year, there were no birth registrations denied on a discriminatory basis.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse. Authorities enforced the law. Penalties for child abuse range from one to five years’ imprisonment and fines. Three separate hotlines were available to assist children who were victims of domestic abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18 but can be waived by a guardianship judge. In its 2017 report to parliament, the country’s Ombudsman Committee for the Rights of Children noted that forced marriage had become a problem as a result of immigration, but no official data on it was available.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, the offering or procuring of a child for commercial sexual exploitation, and practices related to child pornography. Authorities enforced the law, and cases were rare. Penalties for trafficking, including sex trafficking, of children range from 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment and fines. The law provides that a client that committed a commercial sex act with a minor can be sentenced to one to five years of imprisonment, five to 10 years if the minor was younger than age 16, and 10 to 15 years if the minor was younger than age 11, plus fines.

The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 16.

Displaced Children: In 2020 the Immigration Directorate noted 47 asylum requests for unaccompanied children, a slight increase compared to 2019. In 2020 the government accepted 21 unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan, seven from Syria, and 19 from other countries. Three specialized housing shelters specifically designated for unaccompanied children, and two other shelters also accepted unaccompanied children; the government placed unaccompanied children in these shelters whenever feasible.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community numbered approximately 1,500 persons. There were isolated cases of anti-Semitic content on the internet.

The law provides for punishment of anti-Semitic statements and Holocaust denial; the government generally enforced the law when notified. Jewish groups reported anti-Semitic statements and attitudes online, especially in association with statements related to the government of Israel and the Holocaust.

On June 12, the NGO Research and Information on Anti-Semitism in Luxembourg (RIAL) published its report for 2020. The report described 64 incidents of anti-Semitism in the country; most incidents occurred on social media. Persons spreading disinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic also promoted conspiracy theories regarding anti-Semitism. The report emphasized that social media posts often revolved around Judeo/Masonic conspiracy theories.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. The government largely enforced these provisions. The law requires all new government-owned buildings and buildings undergoing renovation to be accessible to persons with disabilities. Private facilities and services as well as existing government-owned buildings are not subject to the law. The accessibility of public transportation outside the capital was limited. The law recognizes German sign language, allowing deaf and hard-of-hearing persons to use both the language and a state-paid interpreter in their communications with government.

In its 2020 report, the CET wrote that it handled 49 cases of potential discrimination related to disability. Most of the cases concerned access to the job market and housing.

The education system allows children with disabilities to attend their local schools with their peers without disabilities. Parents, however, can decide to place their children in segregated classes. According to a representative of InfoHandicap, most children with disabilities attended segregated classes due to the lack of trained teachers to respond to the children’s needs in mainstream schools. The representative further noted that attending school in a segregated classroom affects a child’s chances of employment or pursuing higher education, because segregated classes do not issue diplomas. A representative of the Ministry of Education noted that the ministry increased financial resources and trained personnel to allow a maximum number of children with disabilities to attend their local schools with their peers without disabilities.

The government provided paid family support leave that allowed one parent (either self-employed or working in the private sector) to take care of a disabled or older person whose care facility structure ceased its activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several organizations, including the Luxembourg Assistance to Persons Suffering from Neuromuscular and Rare Diseases and InfoHandicap, criticized the government for not allowing both parents to stay home at the same time, as affected children often needed attention from more than one caregiver. According to the government, making such an exception to the law would have discriminated against families with children without disabilities.

The law permits persons with mental disabilities to be placed under legal guardianship. Persons under guardianship lose the right to vote. Several associations, including InfoHandicap, called the law excessively restrictive.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law prohibits all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and the government generally enforced the law.

The CET’s 2020 report stated that it handled 12 cases of potential discrimination linked to sexual orientation.

The president of Rosa Letzebuerg, a local prolesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTQI+) association, noted that gay and bisexual men are not prohibited from blood donation, but are required to abstain from sexual activity for 12 months before being eligible to donate blood.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the rights of workers, including foreign workers and workers in the informal sector, to form and join independent unions of their choice, to bargain collectively, and to conduct legal strikes. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference. Workers exercised these rights freely, and the government protected these rights. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

The right to strike excludes government workers who provide essential services. Legal strikes may occur only after a lengthy conciliation procedure between the parties. For a strike to be legal, the government’s national conciliation office must certify that conciliation efforts have ended.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government pursued suspected cases and effectively enforced the law. Although NGOs reported it to be understaffed, the Labor Inspectorate increased recruitment efforts during the year to allow it to conduct timely inspections to enforce compliance. Penalties for violations included imprisonment under criminal law and were commensurate with those for similar crimes.

There were reports that foreign men and women were engaged in forced labor, chiefly in the construction and restaurant sectors. Some children were engaged in forced begging (see section 7.c.).

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor and the employment of children younger than 16. Trainees younger than 16 must attend school in addition to their job training. The law also prohibits the employment of workers younger than 18 in hazardous work environments, on Sundays and official holidays, and for nighttime work. The Ministries of Labor and Education effectively enforced the child labor laws.

Romani children from neighboring countries were sometimes brought into the country during the day and trafficked for the purpose of forced begging (see section 7.b.).

By law persons who employ children younger than 16 may be subject to a fine and prison sentence. The penalties were commensurate with those for other serious crimes.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, color, national extraction, social origin, religion, political opinion, sex, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases, or refugee or social status. The government effectively enforced these laws and regulations and penalties for violations were commensurate with those for other crimes related to civil rights, such as election interference.

Employers occasionally discriminated against persons with disabilities in employment (see section 6, Persons with Disabilities). The law establishes quotas that require businesses employing more than 25 persons to hire certain percentages of workers with disabilities and to pay them prevailing wages. InfoHandicap noted that the government failed to enforce this law consistently.

The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including rights under labor law and in the judicial system. The law mandates equal pay for equal work. According to information provided by the Ministry of Equality between Women and Men, during the year employers paid women 5.5 percent less on average than men for comparable work.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law sets a national minimum wage for a worker older than age 18. Collective bargaining agreements established eight hours as a standard workday, with a 40-hour week and provision for 26 days leave and overtime.

The health and safety inspection agency ITM, the Social Security Ministry, and the Superior Court of Justice are responsible for enforcing laws governing maximum hours of work and mandatory holidays. The labor inspection ITM was understaffed but was making efforts to recruit more individuals in order to come into compliance. ITM inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. The majority of alleged violations occurred in the construction sector. The agencies effectively enforced the law, when notified. Penalties for violations are commensurate with those for other similar crimes. In 2020 the ITM carried out 7,419 inspections and levied almost 8.945 million euros ($10.57 million) in fines.

According to the latest ITM report, the labor inspection organization carried out 2,102 health security checks in the country’s private sector to curb the spread of COVID-19. Between March 18, 2020 (start of the COVID-19 pandemic) and December 31, 2020, ITM issued 13 administrative fines for not respecting health regulations.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law mandates a safe working environment and occupational safety and health standards are current and appropriate. Authorities effectively protected employees in this situation. Penalties were commensurate with similar violations.

The ITM and the accident insurance agency of the Social Security Ministry are responsible for inspecting workplaces. Although NGOs reported the Labor Inspectorate to be understaffed, the Labor Inspectorate increased recruitment efforts in 2020 to enforce compliance sufficiently. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections, except in private homes, and to order emergency measures for the regularization or cessation of labor law violations. They can seek assistance from the police should they meet opposition to the fulfillment of their duties. Inspectors can issue fines and establish reports documenting the infringements of the laws, which are forwarded by the director to the prosecutor’s office for further action if needed. Workers have the right to ask the Labor Inspectorate to make a determination regarding workplace safety. Penalties for violations were commensurate with other similar crimes. Accidents occurred most frequently in the construction, commerce, industry, and catering sectors. In 2020 the ITM recorded 581 accidents (versus 466 accidents in 2019), including four fatalities.

Informal Sector: Workers in the informal sector are covered by wage, hour, and OSH laws as well as inspections. The country’s informal sector was not large.

Panama

Executive Summary

Panama is a multiparty constitutional democracy. In 2019 voters chose Laurentino Cortizo Cohen as president in national elections that international and domestic observers considered generally free and fair.

The country has no military forces. The Panama National Police is principally responsible for internal law enforcement and public order, and the National Border Service handles border security. The country also has a National Aeronaval Service that is responsible for carrying out naval and air operations. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including censorship and the existence of criminal libel laws; and serious government corruption.

Impunity among security forces existed due to weak and decentralized internal control mechanisms for conduct and enforcement. Corruption was a serious problem in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches as well as in the security forces. The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government generally did not implement the law effectively.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government generally did not implement the law effectively. Corruption remained a serious problem in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches as well as in the security forces.

Corruption: In March the Public Ministry filed charges against 25 individuals accused of using $43 million in public funds to purchase the Editora Panama America newspaper group. In April the Public Ministry filed charges against two former presidents, Ricardo Martinelli and Juan Carlos Varela, and three former ministers, Demetrio “Jimmy” Papadimitriu, Frank De Lima, and Jaime Ford, for corruption related to the Odebrecht case. As of October the courts had not made a decision in either case.

In June a major scandal broke nationwide when journalists found a private clinic administering Pfizer vaccines for an alleged fee of $200. COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and AstraZeneca) were solely managed – purchased, guarded, and administered – by the Ministry of Health. In December the Public Ministry pressed criminal charges against two individuals involved in the case. Separately, former president Ernesto Perez Balladares publicly admitted to being vaccinated prior to national availability along with 10 members of his family at his residence. Meanwhile, the rest of the country, including President Cortizo, awaited their turn as dictated by the ministry’s strict guidelines on age, health conditions, and place of residence. The Public Ministry did not open investigations into the matter or file charges for abuse of authority or corruption.

Corruption and lack of accountability continued in the police force. The public forces lacked an impartial investigative body for internal investigations. The absence of clear standard operating procedures allowed for discretion by agents on a case-by-case basis. The lack of periodic audits over operations to oversee efficiency, efficacy, accountability, and transparency contributed to the problem. In September authorities arrested a corporal and two agents from the Institutional Protection Service in a counternarcotics sting that revealed a network of individuals trafficking drugs from Colombia.

As of October investigations continued in the 2020 case involving weapons and weapons-trafficking charges against more than 25 individuals, most of whom were high-level security officials during the previous government. The charges involved the illegal distribution to the officials of legally imported weapons, some designated “weapons of war.” The Public Security Affairs Directorate, the office within the Security Ministry that regulates and licenses firearms, was associated with corruption in the past, and at least two former officer directors were facing charges, with one of them implicated in the case. Some defendants filed legal proceedings before the Supreme Court alleging courts’ restrictions to their right to defense by lower courts. As of October the court had not ruled on the writ of mandamus.

There were no developments in the 2020 Public Ministry investigations of national government institutions allegedly overpaying for ventilators and purchasing used ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence:The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and stipulates prison terms of five to 10 years. Rapes continued to constitute most sexual crimes investigated by the National Police Directorate of Judicial Investigation. In April the Supreme Court found National Assembly member Arquesio Arias, a Guna Yala native, not guilty in both of his 2020 charges for sexual assault, alleging a “lack of evidence.” Arias was a physician in his indigenous comarca (a legally designated semiautonomous area) and was denounced by several Guna Yala women for sexual misconduct and abuse. Arias returned to his legislative seat on July 1. The law against gender violence stipulates stiff penalties for harassment, gender-based violence, and both physical and emotional abuse. For example, the law states that sentencing for femicide is 25 to 30 years in prison, whereas penalties for other forms of homicide range from 10 to 20 years in prison. The law was not effectively enforced. Officials and civil society organizations agreed that domestic violence continued to be a serious problem.

As of October the Public Ministry reported 13,013 new cases of domestic violence nationwide, including 12 attempted femicides and 16 femicides. The province of Panama Oeste and the Ngabe Bugle comarca led the numbers with four femicides each, followed by the Panama Province with three cases. In August, Panama City’s deputy mayor Judy Meana pressed charges against her partner for domestic violence. The alleged abuser was detained for several hours. The judge released him while requiring that the accused release his passport to the court, appear before the court’s office every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and adhere to a restraining order from Meana. The prosecutor filed an appeal, but the judge upheld the decision.

From January through August, the National Institute for Women’s Affairs continued to operate its hotline to give legal guidance to victims of domestic violence and extended its services to include mental health services for women facing stress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hours of operation were reduced from 24/7 to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. due to a shortage of professional staff to support the hotline. If a caller were at risk during the call, the operator would make a connection with the Specialized Unit for Domestic and Gender Violence within the police department. After professional staff returned to in-person work in September, the hotline services were discontinued due to staffing limitations. The institute continued to work under a budget that did not allow for victim services and assistance.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in cases of employer-employee relations in the public and private sectors and in teacher-student relations but not between colleagues. Violators face a maximum three-year prison sentence. The extent of the problem was difficult to determine because convictions for sexual harassment were rare, pre-employment sexual harassment was not actionable, and there was a lack of formal reports (only 16 cases had been reported as of September).

Investigations at the Public Ministry continued in the 2020 case of a National Aeronaval Service (SENAN) female pilot who filed a criminal complaint for sexual harassment against her immediate supervisor. Both the man accused of the harassment and the victim were transferred to other departments and given new duties. For months during the year, many restrooms for women at SENAN remained locked due to the pending case. In these cases, women needed to obtain a key from a specific office to access their restrooms. Restrooms for men continued to be open and unlocked at all times.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The law permits medical professionals to perform abortions only if the fetus, the mother, or both are in danger, or, in some very limited cases, if the pregnancy is the result of rape.

The government provided sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception.

Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, and women enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men, but the law was not enforced. For example, SENAN permitted female pilots to fly only as copilots, while male newcomers with less seniority were allowed to fly as principal pilots without restrictions. The law recognizes joint property in marriages. The law does not mandate equal pay for men and women in equivalent jobs. Some employers continued to request pregnancy tests, although it is an illegal hiring practice. The law puts restrictions on women working in jobs deemed hazardous.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Minority groups were generally integrated into mainstream society. Prejudice was directed, however, at recent legal immigrants, the Afro-Panamanian community, and indigenous Panamanians.

The Afro-Panamanian community continued to be underrepresented in governmental positions and in political and economic power. Areas where many Afro-Panamanians lived lagged in terms of government services and social investment. The government’s National Secretariat for the Development of Afro-Panamanians focused on the socioeconomic advancement of this community.

As of August, the Ombudsman’s Office had received six complaints of racism. Five of the complaints involved the use of traditional African costumes at work sites. The sixth report concerned a public school that barred a student’s use of hair braids. After the ombudsman contacted the school principal regarding the matter, the student was allowed to attend his virtual classes in braids.

The law prohibits discrimination in access to public accommodations such as restaurants, stores, and other privately owned establishments. Lighter-skinned individuals continued to be overrepresented in management positions and jobs that required dealing with the public, such as bank tellers and receptionists.

Indigenous Peoples

The law affords indigenous persons the same political and legal rights as other citizens, protects their ethnic identity and native languages, and requires the government to provide bilingual literacy programs in indigenous communities. Despite the law’s requirement, the government failed to assign funds necessary for completion of the bilingual literacy project. Indigenous persons have the legal right to take part in decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, and the allocation and exploitation of natural resources. Nevertheless, they continued to be marginalized in mainstream society. Traditional community leaders governed comarcas for five of the country’s seven indigenous groups.

Several of the groups faced internal governance problems, since they either did not have legally elected authorities, or the government delayed the recognition of their duly elected authorities. This complicated the receipt of government funds, including those allotted to combat the spread of COVID-19. During the year the government issued an executive degree regulating elections in the Ngabe Bugle comarca, which had been on stand-by since 2017.

The government unofficially recognized eight other traditional indigenous government authorities, on the basis that these eight regions were traditionally organized indigenous settlements and territories that were excluded from the constitution when the original comarcas were designated in 1938. The traditional government authorities are organized under a national coordinating body for indigenous affairs, the National Coordinator of Indigenous Peoples. In August the coordinating body stated that high-level government authorities had ignored their meeting requests, which they considered discriminatory, since the government held meetings with other ethnic groups and associations. The coordinating body also expressed concern that the government was stalling full implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Development Plan.

Officials from various government entities continued to meet with traditional organized authorities from indigenous communities, many of whom requested recognition of their land via collective titles. No collective land titles were granted during the year, however, and land conflicts continued to arise. Several Embera communities in Darien Province claimed that illegal settlers continued to enter their lands during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the nationwide movement restrictions, and that their complaints went unaddressed. The Supreme Court of Justice ruled the Naso comarca constitutional, and the legal process for its creation was underway. In June the Bri Bri people submitted a demand to the Supreme Court for protection of their human rights, requesting that the court overturn the denial of their application for collective title to their lands.

The Barro Blanco dam project, opposed by the Ngabe Bugle peoples, continued to operate unhindered. There were no plans by the government to halt dam operations.

Although the law is the ultimate authority in indigenous comarcas, many indigenous peoples had not received sufficient information to understand their rights. Additionally, due to the inadequate educational system available in the comarcas, many indigenous peoples were unaware of or failed to use available legal channels.

Societal and employment discrimination against indigenous persons was widespread. Employers frequently denied indigenous workers basic rights provided by law, such as a minimum wage, social security benefits, termination pay, and job security. Laborers on the country’s agricultural plantations (most of whom were indigenous persons) continued to work in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. The Ministry of Labor conducted limited oversight of working conditions in remote areas.

Access to health care continued to be a significant problem for indigenous communities, primarily due to poor infrastructure and lack of personnel and supplies. During the year the Embera health and sanitary infrastructure collapsed under the increased influx of migrants emerging from Colombia. The Ngabe Bugle people closed the Interamerican Highway on several occasions, demanding significant improvements to their comarca’s road system. Deficiencies in the educational system deepened at all levels during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the public school system remained operational through virtual education, the comarcas typically had very limited access to internet and radio signals. These technological barriers prevented indigenous students from accessing educational opportunities.

Children

Birth Registration: The law provides citizenship for all persons born in the country, but parents of children born in remote areas sometimes had difficulty obtaining birth registration certificates.

Child Abuse: Child abuse is illegal. The law has several articles pertaining to child abuse and its penalties, which depend on the type of abuse and range from six months to 20 years’ imprisonment if the abuse falls under a crime that carries a higher penalty. Public Ministry statistics as of September reported that 3,660 children were victims of different types of abuse; the Public Ministry believed these crimes were underreported. The Ministry of Social Development maintained a free hotline for children and adults to report child abuse and advertised it widely. The ministry provided funding to children’s shelters operated by NGOs.

In February the Women’s, Children, and Youth Commission of the National Assembly revealed the results of a study commissioned in 2019 of children’s shelters nationwide. The 700-page report, which was not made public but was widely discussed by legislators, allegedly revealed widespread abuse, including sexual abuse, negligence, lack of supply of medications, and administrative irregularities in the shelters investigated. These shelters were managed by NGOs, supervised by the National Secretariat for Children, Adolescents, and Family Affairs (SENNIAF), and operated with government funding.

In late August, SENNIAF announced that between May and July, it filed eight criminal complaints for alleged abuse in shelters, in response to a legislator who alerted the media about receiving anonymous complaints detailing additional abuse cases in SENNIAF-supervised shelters. As of September, the Public Ministry had opened 27 cases, charged 13 individuals, and convicted three others.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. The government prohibits early marriage even with parental permission.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation, sale, and offering for prostitution of children, in addition to child pornography. Officials from the Ministry for Public Security prosecuted cases of sexual abuse of children, including within indigenous communities. Ministry officials believed commercial sexual exploitation of children occurred, including in tourist areas in Panama City and in beach communities, although they did not keep separate statistics. As of September, there were no cases reported nationwide of child sexual tourism.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

Jewish community leaders estimated there were 15,000 Jews in the country. There were no known reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities faced difficulty accessing education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. Government information and communication is not provided in accessible formats, and there is no law requiring such access. The law mandates that persons with disabilities have access to education and health services, including rehabilitation and therapies, public transportation, public and private buildings, sports and cultural events, and jobs without discrimination. In practice, however, accessibility was limited.

Private schools started reopening in June, but public schools remained closed during the year due to the pandemic. Public schools taught via the public SerTV radio and television stations. Only occasionally did the Ministry of Education facilitate sign language interpretation for students with hearing disabilities during classes taught on television. Schools did not address other disabilities during home and virtual schooling.

Most of Panama City’s bus fleet remained wheelchair inaccessible. Public buses in the rest of the country were small and not adapted for persons with disabilities. The Panama City Metro elevators remained closed for most of the year, according to NGO representatives. A lack of ramps further limited access to older stations, although Metro Line 2 had ramp access.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS in employment and education. Discrimination, however, continued to be common due to ignorance of the law and a lack of mechanisms for ensuring compliance. LGBTQI+ individuals with HIV or AIDS reported mistreatment by public health-care workers.

Employees are not obligated to disclose their condition to the employer, but if they do so, the employer must keep the information confidential. Employers may be fined for not keeping an employee’s medical condition confidential. The government was not active in preventing discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS.

There were fewer public HIV/AIDS medical treatments and supplies available, since most medical resources were dedicated to fighting COVID-19. The University of Guatemala funded stigma-free “friendly clinics” for LGBTQI+ COVID-19 patients, but activists reported that staff members in these clinics were not friendly to their visitors.

During the year there was only one appointment per month at the Ministry of Health’s facilities for the HIV viral load test. Pregnant women who needed the test were prioritized for appointments over members of the LGBTQI+ community.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

During the COVID-19 pandemic, LGBTQI+ persons reported harassment by public-health officials, but there were no public reports of police harassment during the year.

In June, LGBTQI+ activists organized two Pride Month parades in Panama City. Early in the month, the private Museum of Liberty and Human Rights raised the Pride flag, but days later it was vandalized by a group of “profamily” and anti-same-sex marriage activists during a protest outside the museum. Part of the museum’s board decided not to raise the flag again. As a result, five board members submitted their resignations to the board’s president in protest. The Canal Museum also raised the Pride flag but later took it down upon receiving a government request citing a law that stipulate only the Panamanian flag can be flown in government buildings. The Canal Museum is a joint private-public venture and received public funding.

The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. There was societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which often led to denial of employment opportunities. Same-sex marriage continued to be prohibited by law. As of October the Supreme Court had not ruled on the 2016 class-action lawsuit requesting the article of the family code that refers to marriage as “the union of a man and a woman,” and thus forbids same-sex legal unions, be declared unconstitutional. Panamanian same-sex couples who were married abroad were not allowed to legally register their marriage. In September the Supreme Court did not admit a writ of mandamus filed by a local law firm against the Civil Registry’s decision not to register the same-sex marriage of a Panamanian citizen and his Colombian spouse held in Colombia in 2017.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for private-sector workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct strikes. Public-sector employees may organize to create a professional association to bargain collectively on behalf of its members, even though public institutions are not legally obliged to bargain with the association. Members of the national police are the only workers prohibited from creating professional associations. There were 14 public-worker associations registered. The National Federation of Public Servants (FENASEP), an umbrella federation of 31 public-sector worker associations, traditionally fought to establish rights similar to those of private-sector unions. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers terminated for union activity but does not provide adequate means of protecting this right.

Unions and associations are required to register with the Ministry of Labor. If the ministry does not respond to a private-sector union registration application within 15 calendar days, the union automatically gains legal recognition, provided the request is submitted directly with the supporting documentation required. In the public sector, professional associations gain legal recognition automatically if the Ministry of Government does not respond to registration applications within 30 days. According to FENASEP leaders, most associations were approved, although some cases were denied for political reasons. According to official sources, the Ministry of Labor approved applications for the formation of two private-sector unions and one public-sector association during the year.

The law allows arbitration by mutual consent, at the request of employees or the ministry, in cases of collective disputes at privately held companies. It allows either party to appeal if arbitration is mandated during a collective dispute at a public-service company. The Ministry of Labor Board of Appeals and Conciliation has the authority to resolve certain labor disagreements within the private sector, such as internal union disputes, enforcement of the minimum wage, and some dismissal issues. For example, the Ministry of Labor, as a mediator in biennial minimum wage negotiations between unions and businesses in 2019, announced a minimum wage increase of 3.3 percent when negotiations failed.

Government regulations on union membership place some restrictions on freedom of association. The constitution mandates that only citizens may serve on a union’s executive board. In addition, the law requires a minimum of 40 persons to form a private-sector union (either by a company across trades or by trade across companies) and allows only one union per business establishment. The International Labor Organization criticized the 40-person minimum as too large for workers wanting to form a union within a company. Many domestic labor unions, as well as the public and private sectors, reiterated their support for keeping the figure at 40 individuals, since having a greater number of participants can strengthen a union’s influence.

In the public sector, professional associations represent the majority of workers. The law stipulates only one association may exist per public-sector institution and permits no more than one chapter per province. At least 50 public servants are required to form a professional association. No law protects the jobs of public-sector workers in the event of a strike. FENASEP contended there was no political will to allow all public servants within ministries to form unions, because this could eliminate positions for political appointees.

The law prohibits federations and confederations from calling strikes. Individual professional associations under FENASEP may negotiate on behalf of their members, but the Ministry of Labor can order compulsory arbitration. According to the labor code, the majority of private-sector employees must support a strike, and strikes are permitted only if they are related to improvement of working conditions, a collective bargaining agreement, repeated violations of legal rights, or support for another workers strike on the same project (solidarity strike). In event of a strike, at least 20 to 30 percent of the workforce must continue to provide minimum services, particularly public services defined by law as essential, such as transportation, sanitation, mail delivery, hospital care, telecommunications, and provision of necessary food.

Strikes in essential transportation services are limited to those involving public passenger services. The law prohibits strikes by Panama Canal Authority employees but allows professional associations to organize and bargain collectively on issues such as schedules and safety and provides arbitration to resolve disputes. The Canal Authority is an autonomous entity, independent of the national government and as such is subject to its own labor regulation.

The Ministry of the Presidency Conciliation Board is responsible for resolving public-sector worker complaints. The board refers complaints it cannot resolve to an arbitration panel, which consists of representatives from the employer, the professional association, and a third member chosen by the first two. If the dispute cannot be resolved, it is referred to a tribunal under the board. Observers, however, noted that the Ministry of the Presidency had not named the tribunal judges. The alternative to the board is the civil court system, but those procedures can take more than three years and usually result in negative outcomes for the employee. While Supreme Court decisions are final, labor organizations may appeal cases in international human rights courts.

The government did not consistently enforce the law in the formal sector and was less likely to enforce the law in most rural areas (see section 6, Indigenous Peoples). Throughout the year the administration continued to dismiss public workers, mostly without citing a legal basis and all without paying negotiated employment benefits such as paid vacation leave or severance pay. According to reports, these firings were due to the change in government and not the COVID-19 pandemic. An estimated 80,000 public workers had been dismissed since the start of President Cortizo’s administration in 2019. In August FENASEP presented a lawsuit to the Supreme Court for noncompliance with Decree 466 of 2020, which prohibits employees from being fired during the state of emergency imposed due to the pandemic. In the lawsuit FENASEP also claimed that workers were not paid for months after being called back to work during the pandemic.

The government and employers generally respected freedom of association. Penalties for violations were commensurate with those for similar offenses.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Although the law prohibits all forms of human trafficking, including forced labor of adults and children, the penal code stipulates that a trafficking offense must include movement, which is inconsistent with international protocols. The law establishes criminal penalties commensurate with those for other similar serious crimes.

The government enforced the law in the formal sector. The Ministry of Labor investigated human trafficking for the purpose of forced labor, granted residency and work permits for foreign trafficking victims, and provided additional food and hygiene support to trafficking victims during the pandemic. Authorities prosecuted and convicted fewer perpetrators of labor exploitation and identified fewer potential forced labor victims, compared with previous years. In July the Public Ministry sentenced a person to 23 years in prison for the crimes of trafficking in persons (sexual servitude), kidnapping, and extortion. The convicted person was also disqualified from exercising public functions for five years after completing the prison term.

Forced labor occurred, mainly with sexual exploitation of adults and children. Labor traffickers reported using debt bondage, false promises, exploitation of migratory status, lack of knowledge of the refugee process and irregular status, restrictions on movement, and other indicators of forced labor. Migrant workers without work permits were vulnerable to forced labor. There also were reports of forced child labor (see section 7.c.).

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. Minors younger than 16 may work no more than six hours per day or 36 hours per week, while children ages 16 and 17 may work no more than seven hours per day or 42 hours per week. Children younger than 18 may not work between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. The law prohibits employment of children younger than 14, and children who have not completed primary school may not begin work until 15. The law allows children ages 12 to 15 to perform light work in agriculture if the work is outside regular school hours. The law also allows a child older than 12 to perform light domestic work and stipulates that employers must ensure the child attends school through primary school. The law neither defines the type of light work children may perform nor limits the total number of light domestic work hours children may perform. The law prohibits children younger than 18 from engaging in hazardous work but allows children as young as 14 to perform hazardous tasks in a work-training facility, in violation of international standards.

The government inconsistently enforced the law; criminal penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes but were not enforced in all sectors. Children were exploited in forced labor, particularly domestic servitude, and subjected to sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. After the government prosecuted and convicted its first child-labor case in September 2020, it started investigating a second case and provided social services to 1,500 child victims and children at risk of child labor.

Child labor occurred. According to the observations of a well known NGO on child labor, before the pandemic, child labor was centered in the agricultural sector, but pandemic movement restrictions forced children and adolescents to also become street vendors in urban areas. Children worked in agriculture, where they could be subjected to hazardous work. Children from indigenous and Afro-descendent communities were most vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, political opinion, citizenship, disability, social status, and HIV status. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Although the country is a member of the International Equal Pay Coalition, which promotes pay parity between women and men, a gender wage gap continued to exist, and no law mandates equal pay for equal work. The law puts restrictions on women working in jobs deemed hazardous.

The government did not effectively enforce the law, and penalties were not commensurate with those for similar crimes. Despite legal protections, discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, sex, disability, and HIV-positive status. During the job interview process, applicants, both citizens and noncitizens, must complete medical examinations, including HIV/AIDS testing. The law requires all laboratories to inform applicants that an HIV test will be administered, but private-sector laboratories often did not comply. It was common practice for private-sector human resources offices to terminate applications of HIV-positive citizens without informing the applicant. While private laboratories often informed law enforcement of HIV-positive migrants, the National Migration Service did not engage in deportation procedures based specifically on a migrant’s HIV status. NGOs noted that during job interviews, women were often asked if they were married, pregnant, or planned to have children. It was common practice for human resources offices to terminate the applications of women who indicated a possibility of pregnancy in the near future (see section 6, Women). Persons with disabilities continued to face discrimination in hiring and accessing the workspace.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a national minimum wage only for private-sector workers. The wage was above the poverty line. Public servants received lower wages than their private-sector counterparts, but salaries were above the poverty line. Most workers formally employed in urban areas earned the minimum wage or more. According to some reports, the pandemic eliminated as much as 50 percent of formal jobs in the private sector.

The law establishes a standard workweek of 48 hours, provides for at least one 24-hour rest period weekly, limits the number of hours worked per week, provides for premium pay for overtime, and prohibits compulsory overtime. There is no annual limit on the total number of overtime hours allowed. If employees work more than three hours of overtime in one day or more than nine overtime hours in a week, excess overtime hours must be paid at an additional 75 percent above the normal wage. Workers have the right to 30 days of paid vacation for every 11 months of continuous work, including those who do not work full time.

Occupational Safety and Health: The Ministry of Labor is responsible for setting health and safety standards. Standards were generally current and appropriate for the industries in the country. The law requires employers to provide a safe workplace environment, including the provision of protective clothing and equipment for workers. Equipment was often outdated, broken, or lacking safety devices, due in large part to fear that replacement costs would be prohibitive. After the beginning of the pandemic, all workplaces were required to establish a health committee to enforce the mandatory health standards established by the Ministry of Health.

The Ministry of Labor generally enforced the law in the formal sector. The inspection office consists of two groups: the Panama City-based headquarters group and the regional group. The number of inspectors and safety officers was sufficient to enforce wage, hour, and safety regulations adequately in the formal sector. As of September, the ministry conducted 8,551 safety inspections, an increase of 110 percent from the same period in 2020. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar violations. Employers often hired employees under short-term contracts to avoid paying benefits that accrue to long-term employees. Employers in the maritime sector also commonly hired workers continuously on short-term contracts but did not convert them to permanent employees as required by law. The law states that employers have the right to dismiss any employee without cause during the two-year tenure term. As a result, employers frequently hired workers for one year and 11 months and subsequently dismissed them to circumvent laws that make firing employees more difficult after two years of employment. This practice is illegal if the same employee is rehired as a temporary worker after being dismissed, although employees rarely reported the practice.

In workplaces 83 accidents were registered. Construction was the most dangerous sector for workplace accidents, accounting for 82 percent of all accidents registered. In some cases, equipment was outdated, broken, or lacking safety devices, and in other cases the employee failed to wear appropriate personal protective equipment. In February a construction worker died after falling from the 26th floor of a building under construction. The Public Ministry is charged with investigating these incidents. The most hazardous sectors were construction, agriculture, and mining.

Informal Sector: According to official sources, in September 2020, 53 percent of the working population worked in the informal sector, and some earned well below the minimum wage. The informal sector grew substantially over the past two years due to massive job dismissals in the formal sector because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In August 2020 the government reformed the law to promote the creation and development of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises. These reforms assisted the National Authority for Micro, Small, and Medium Sized Businesses to institute policies to help formalize the economy, including the creation of soft loans and policies to help employers pay required social security fees to employees.

Ukraine

Read A Section: Ukraine

Crimea

Note: Except where otherwise noted, references in this report do not include areas controlled by Russia-led forces in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine or Russia-occupied Crimea. At the end of this report is a section listing abuses in Russia-occupied Crimea.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Ukraine is a republic with a semipresidential political system composed of three branches of government: a unicameral legislature (Verkhovna Rada); an executive led by a directly elected president who is head of state and commander in chief and a prime minister who is chosen through a legislative majority and as head of government leads the Cabinet of Ministers; and a judiciary. In 2019 Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected president in an election considered free and fair by international and domestic observers. In 2019 the country held early parliamentary elections that observers also considered free and fair.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs is responsible for maintaining internal security and order and oversees police and other law enforcement personnel. The Security Service of Ukraine is responsible for state security broadly defined, nonmilitary intelligence, and counterintelligence and counterterrorism matters. The Ministry of Internal Affairs reports to the Cabinet of Ministers, and the Security Service reports directly to the president. The State Border Guard Service under the Ministry of Internal Affairs implements state policy regarding border security, while the State Migration Service, also under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, implements state policy regarding migration, citizenship, and registration of refugees and other migrants. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over security forces in the territory controlled by the government. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government or its agents; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees by law enforcement personnel; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious abuses in the Russia-led conflict in the Donbas, including physical abuses or punishment of civilians and members of armed groups held in detention facilities; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, and censorship; serious restrictions on internet freedom; refoulement of refugees to a country where they would face a threat to their life or freedom; serious acts of government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; crimes, violence, or threats of violence motivated by anti-Semitism; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting persons with disabilities, members of ethnic minority groups, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and the existence of the worst forms of child labor.

The government generally failed to take adequate steps to prosecute or punish most officials who committed abuses, resulting in a climate of impunity. The government took some steps to identify, prosecute, and punish officials involved in corruption.

In the Russian-instigated conflict in the Donbas region, Russia-led forces reportedly engaged in unlawful or widespread civilian harm, enforced disappearances or abductions, and torture and physical abuses or punishment. Other significant human rights issues included credible reports of: harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious restrictions on free expression and the press; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; severe restrictions of religious freedom; serious restrictions on freedom of movement across the line of contact in eastern Ukraine; restrictions on political participation, including unelected governments and elections that were not genuine, free, or fair; and unduly restricted humanitarian aid.

Significant human rights issues in Russia-occupied Crimea included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; forced disappearance; torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by Russia or Russia-led “authorities,” including punitive psychiatric incarceration; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions and transfer of prisoners to Russia; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, censorship, and the existence of criminal libel; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations; severe restrictions of religious freedom; restrictions on freedom of movement; serious restrictions on political participation including unelected governments and elections that were not genuine, free, or fair; serious government restrictions on or harassment of domestic and international human rights; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of national/racial/ethnic minority groups, or indigenous people, including Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons (see Crimea subreport).

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption. Authorities did not effectively implement the law, and many officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. While the number of reports of government corruption was low, observers noted corruption remained pervasive at all levels in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. From January 1 to June 30, the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine launched 336 investigations that resulted in 25 indictments against 43 individuals. Accused individuals included public officials, heads of state-owned enterprises, one judge, and others.

On September 5, the High Anticorruption Court (HACC) announced that in the previous two years it had convicted 10 judges for a range of offenses, including soliciting bribes, lying in financial declarations, and abuse of office. The court sentenced the judges to between two and nine years in prison, deprived them of the right to hold office for a period of three years, and confiscated property. In 2020 and during the year, the HACC sentenced 36 officials to imprisonment on corruption-related charges. Anticorruption bodies continued to face pressure from antireform elites and oligarchs in the form of misinformation campaigns and political maneuvering that undermined public trust and threatened the viability of the institutions. Human rights groups called for increased transparency and discussion regarding proposed changes to these bodies, particularly respecting procedures for appointments to leadership positions. As of September 13, it was widely held that the selection process for the new head of the Special Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office remained stalled due to political interference.

Human rights groups claimed another threat to the anticorruption infrastructure came from the Constitutional Court, where antireform interests exercised undue influence on judges. Parliament amended some provisions of anticorruption legislation that had been overturned by Constitutional Court decisions in 2020, and legislation to safeguard the independence of the National Anticorruption Bureau was adopted by parliament on October 19. Also pending was a review by the Constitutional Court on the constitutionality of the High Anticorruption Court law.

On July 13, parliament adopted legislation to relaunch the High Qualification Commission of Judges and High Council of Justice (HCJ), bodies that control the hiring of judges and judicial self-governance, respectively, and that judicial reform groups characterized as influenced by corrupt interests. Implementation of the law governing vetting of HCJ members, however, faltered within weeks of enactment, when the Council of Judges refused to nominate at least one candidate to serve on the HCJ Ethics Council, which is envisioned to comprise three legal experts nominated by international partners and three Ukrainian judges nominated by the Council of Judges. On October 23, the Council of Judges nominated four judge candidates, but legal experts noted the Supreme Court had referred the judicial reform law to the Constitutional Court to assess its constitutionality.

Corruption: While the government publicized several attempts to combat corruption, it remained a serious problem for citizens and businesses alike.

On March 22, the NGO Center for Combatting Corruption announced the results of its analysis of government procurements conducted without public tenders under a Cabinet of Ministers decree to purchase drugs and medical equipment to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The study found that in 2020, more than 144,000 procurements were made with contracts worth 30 billion hryvnias ($1.1 billion), a significantly inflated figure indicative of significant overpayment. The organization noted that more than one-half of a 64.9-billion-hryvnia ($2.4 billion) fund allocated to combat the COVID-19 pandemic had been reallocated to road construction, an area historically rife with corruption.

On August 20, the National Anticorruption Bureau detained a member of the Commission for the Regulation of Gambling and Lotteries, Yevhen Hetman, for allegedly accepting two bribes totaling 2.46 million hryvnias ($90,000). In early August Hetman allegedly agreed to facilitate the approval of gambling licenses for two hotels in Zaporizhzhya and Chernihiv in exchange for two 1.23-million-hryvnia ($45,000) payments. On August 16, the Gambling Commission issued permits to the hotels. Hetman was detained on August 20 and released on bail of five million hryvnias ($183,000) on August 28. There were also concerns regarding financial disclosures of assets for government officials. On September 10, media outlets reported that the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption had noted potential indicators of a criminal offense in the declaration of Oleksandr Kasminin, a Constitutional Court judge who failed to provide information on real estate assets. The agency also identified irregularities in the declarations of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Industries Oleh Uruskyy, Supreme Court judge Serhiy Hopta, Deputy Minister of Community and Territorial Development Natalia Khotsyanivska, and First Deputy Minister of Culture and Information Policy Rostyslav Karandeev.

Law enforcement agencies often failed to appropriately investigate cases of attacks against journalists, human rights defenders, and activists, particularly those who focused on exposing corruption (see section 2.a.). For example on April 5, unknown individuals set fire to the car of Valeriy Kharchuk, the head of the Anticorruption Regional Front in Rubizhne, Luhansk Oblast. Police initiated proceedings under charges of intentional destruction or damage to property. On July 16, another vehicle belonging to Kharchuk was set on fire. According to Kharchuk, a surveillance camera recorded a man pouring flammable liquid onto the car and setting it on fire. Kharchuk said she believed she was targeted in connection to her reporting to police on corruption schemes involving city officials.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases.

Russia-led forces and authorities in Russia-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine routinely denied access to domestic and international civil society organizations. Human rights groups attempting to work in those areas faced significant harassment and intimidation (see section 2.b., Freedom of Association).

Government Human Rights Bodies: The constitution provides for a human rights ombudsperson, officially designated as parliamentary commissioner on human rights. In 2018 parliament appointed Lyudmila Denisova parliamentary commissioner on human rights. The Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner on Human Rights cooperated with NGOs on projects to monitor human rights practices in various institutions, including detention facilities, orphanages and boarding schools for children, and geriatric institutions. Commissioner Denisova took a proactive stance advocating on behalf of political prisoners held by Russia as well as Crimean Tatars, Roma, IDPs, and persons with disabilities.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits domestic violence and rape, including spousal rape, of women and men. The penalty for rape is three to 15 years’ imprisonment. Sexual assault and rape continued to be significant problems. The law prohibits domestic violence, which is punishable by fines, emergency restraining orders of up to 10 days, ordinary restraining orders from one to six months, administrative arrest, and community service.

Human rights groups reported police often failed to effectively enforce these laws. Domestic violence against women remained a serious problem. In the first six months of the year, police received 103,000 domestic violence complaints. Intimate partner violence was common. The HRMMU reported the implementation of quarantine measures surrounding COVID-19 exacerbated the situation. According to the Internal Affairs Ministry, approximately 3,300 cases of domestic violence were investigated during the first eight months of the year. Police issued approximately 59,350 domestic violence warnings and protection orders during the first eight months of the year. Punishment included fines, emergency restraining orders of up to 10 days, ordinary restraining orders from one to six months, administrative arrest, and community service. Human rights groups noted the ability of agencies to detect and report cases of domestic violence was limited.

According to the NGO La Strada, COVID-19 lockdown measures made it difficult for victims of domestic violence to receive help. Survivors faced increased difficulty in accessing domestic violence shelters due to the requirement to obtain a hospital certificate declaring they were not infected with COVID-19 before the shelters would provide social services.

According to press reports, on July 20, a man with a police record of domestic violence killed his former wife and adult daughter with an axe in their apartment in Lutsk. Police arrived at the scene shortly after receiving a call from neighbors and detained the man. The suspect, Vasyl Pylypyuk, allegedly confessed to the murders to his neighbors and faced charges with punishments ranging from 15 years’ to life imprisonment. Police opened an investigation and placed Pylypyuk in pretrial detention. Media outlets reported on August 11 that Pylypyuk died in pretrial detention after being beaten by a fellow inmate. Police reportedly opened an investigation into his death.

According to La Strada, the conflict in the Donbas region led to a surge in violence against women across the country in recent years. Human rights groups attributed the increase in violence to post-traumatic stress experienced by IDPs fleeing the conflict and by soldiers returning from combat. IDPs reported instances of rape and sexual abuse; many said they fled areas controlled by Russia-led forces because they feared sexual abuse.

As of late September, the government operated 40 shelters for survivors of domestic violence and 19 centers for social and psychological aid as well as 21 crisis rooms across the country for survivors of domestic violence and child abuse.

Sexual Harassment: While the law prohibits coercing a person to have sexual intercourse, legal experts stated that safeguards against harassment were inadequate. The law puts sexual harassment in the same category as discrimination and sets penalties ranging from a fine to three years in prison. Women’s rights groups reported continuing and widespread sexual harassment, including coerced sex, in the workplace. Women rarely sought legal recourse because courts declined to hear their cases and rarely convicted perpetrators. On January 1, police registered a criminal investigation into Ukrainian Armed Forces lieutenant colonel Olha Derkach’s allegation that she was sexually harassed by her immediate supervisor, Chernhiv regional military commissioner Oleksandr Kryvoruchko, over a period of several years, beginning in 2016. Derkach claims Kryvoruchko’s unwelcome advances included instances of sexual groping. She claimed that when she rejected his advances, Kryvoruchko criticized her as incompetent in front of other officers. Kryvoruchko resigned from his position in February but denied the allegations and attempted to sue Derkach for defamation. On October 2, a court in Chernihiv dismissed Kryvoruchko’s lawsuit. As of mid-November, according to media reports, national police were still investigating Derkach’s allegations.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Romani women sometimes faced barriers in managing their reproductive health, including segregation in maternity wards and other forms of discrimination. Government policy does not bar access to contraception.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, and emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape. Human rights groups said, however, that these services were sometimes unreliable and often did not reach Romani communities.

According to UN Women, health-care providers sometimes refused to provide adequate reproductive health services for LGBTQI+ women due to anti-LGBTQI+ views or lack of expertise. A 2020 UN Population Fund survey found that 81 percent of married or in-union women between the ages of 15 and 49 reported making their own decisions regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights, including deciding on their own health care, deciding on the use of contraception, and consenting to sex.

Discrimination: While the law provides that women enjoy the same rights as men, women experienced discrimination in employment. According to the Ministry of Economy, men earned on average 18 percent more than women. The Ministry of Health maintained a list of 50 occupations that remain prohibited for women. Women experienced discrimination in pay and in access to retirement and pension benefits.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution prohibits any restriction of rights based on race, skin color, religious beliefs, language, and other characteristics, while the law criminalizes intentional acts provoking hatred and hostility based on nationality, religion, or race. The law also provides for designating racial, national, or religious enmity as aggravating circumstances to criminal offenses. Laws that protect members of racial or ethnic minorities from violence and discrimination were not effectively enforced. Human rights groups reported that police often failed to properly apply these laws when investigating attacks on members of minority groups.

Mistreatment of members of minority groups and harassment of foreigners of non-Slavic appearance remained problematic. According to September data from the National Minority Rights Monitoring Group, three xenophobic attacks occurred in the first eight months of the year. Human rights organizations stated the requirement to prove actual intent, including proof of premeditation, to secure a conviction made it difficult to apply the laws against offenses motivated by racial, national, or religious hatred. Police and prosecutors continued to prosecute racially motivated crimes under laws against hooliganism or related offenses.

In January a provision of a 2019 law promoting the use of the Ukrainian language went into effect, requiring shops and retails establishments to engage customers in Ukrainian unless the customers requested service in another language.

The most frequent reports of societal violence against national, racial, and ethnic minorities were against Roma. On October 17, approximately 50 to 100 individuals (including members of violent radical groups) gathered in front of the homes of Romani families in the Kyiv suburb of Irpin to protest the stabbing of a military veteran two days prior by two minor Romani boys. The crowd shouted anti-Roma slurs and threatened violence against the Romani community as collective punishment for the attack. The crowd also shot fireworks at a Romani family’s house, broke the entrance gate, and spray-painted “get out” on the fence around the house. Local police characterized the incident as a protest of civic activists. As of late October, no charges had been filed against any of the participants.

Human rights activists remained concerned regarding the lack of accountability in cases of attacks on Roma and the government’s failure to address societal violence and harassment against them.

Roma continued to face governmental and societal discrimination and significant barriers accessing education, health care, social services, and employment. According to Council of Europe experts, 60 percent of Roma were unemployed, 40 percent had no documents, and only 1 percent had a university degree. According to the Romani women’s foundation, Chirikli, local authorities erected a number of barriers to prevent issuing national identification documents to Roma. Authorities hampered access to education for persons who lacked documents and segregated Romani children into special schools or lower-quality classrooms. Officials also expressed anti-Roma sentiments and encouraged discrimination.

In a June 9 interview with a local radio station, Rivne city mayor Oleksandr Tretyak claimed that, in response to complaints from local citizens regarding high levels of crime committed by Romani individuals, he had recently confronted a group of Roma on the street and demanded that they leave the city within several hours. Tretyak claimed the individuals refused to leave, noting there was no transportation available. Tretyak noted in the interview, “I can see things coming to a point when we will take radical steps. We will pack them all in a bus and move them out to Transkarpattya, their home region.” Tretyak apologized on June 10, noting that illegal actions should be punished “regardless of ethnic origin.”

The enforcement of pandemic-related measures exacerbated governmental and societal discrimination against Roma. According to Chirikli, many Romani individuals with informal and seasonal employment lost their livelihoods during the series of lockdowns, which ended in May. Many of these individuals lacked personal identification documents and therefore had difficulty accessing medical care, social services, pensions, and formal employment.

Many Roma fled settlements in areas controlled by Russia-led forces and moved elsewhere in the country. According to Chirikli, approximately 10,000 Roma were among the most vulnerable members of the country’s IDP population. Many Romani IDPs lacked documents, and obtaining IDP assistance, medical care, and education was especially difficult.

The ombudsperson for human rights cooperated with NGOs to draft policies and legislation to protect members of racial and ethnic minorities from discrimination. The ombudsperson also advocated for accountability for cases of violence against members of racial and ethnic minorities.

Indigenous Peoples

On July 1, parliament passed legislation guaranteeing legal protections for “the indigenous people of Ukraine,” which included Crimean Tatars, Karaites, and Krymchaks. Crimean Tatars continued to experience serious governmental and societal violence and discrimination in Russia-occupied Crimea (see Crimea subreport).

Children

Birth Registration: Birth in the country or to Ukrainian parents conveys citizenship. A child born to stateless parents residing permanently in the country is a citizen. The law requires that parents register a child within a month of birth, and failure to register sometimes resulted in denial of public services.

Registration of children born in Crimea or Russia-controlled areas in the Donbas region remained difficult. Authorities required hospital documents to register births. Russian occupation authorities or Russia-led forces routinely kept such documents if parents registered children in territories under their control, making it difficult for the child to obtain a Ukrainian birth certificate. In addition, authorities did not recognize documents issued by Russian occupation authorities in Crimea or in territories controlled by Russia-led forces. Persons living in Crimea and parts of the Donbas had to present documents obtained in Russia-controlled territory to Ukrainian courts to receive Ukrainian government-issued documents. The courts were obliged to make rulings in 24 hours; these decisions were then carried out by the registry office. Due to the lack of judges in local courts, Ukrainians living in regions under Russian control faced serious difficulty in obtaining Ukrainian documents.

Child Abuse: Penalties for child abuse range from three years to life, depending on severity. The law criminalizes sexual relations between adults and persons younger than 16; violations are punishable by imprisonment of up to five years. The criminal code qualifies sexual relations with a person younger than 14 as rape.

Human rights groups noted authorities lacked the capability to detect violence against children and refer victims for assistance. Preventive services remained underdeveloped. There were also instances of forced labor involving children.

Authorities did not take effective measures to protect children from abuse and violence and to prevent such problems. The ombudsperson for human rights noted the imperfection of mechanisms to protect children who survived or witnessed violence, particularly violence committed by their parents. According to the law, parents were the legal representatives of their children, even if they perpetrated violence against them. There is no procedure for appointing a temporary legal representative for a child during the investigation of alleged parental violence.

According to press reports, on July 23, police in Kryvyy Rih received a telephone call from a seven-year-old boy who reported that his stepfather had beaten him and chained him to the radiator in his bedroom. Officers responding to the call removed the chain from the boy’s ankle and transported him to a hospital. Police detained the boy’s stepfather, who claimed he had been trying to keep the boy from running away while he was at work. The child told police his stepfather routinely beat and verbally abused him. The stepfather faced up to five years in prison on charges of unlawful imprisonment and intentional bodily injury.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18. A court may grant a child as young as 16 permission to marry if it finds marriage to be in the child’s interest. Romani rights groups reported early marriages involving girls younger than 18 were common in the Romani community.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, offering or procuring a child for commercial sex, and practices related to child pornography. The minimum prison sentence for rape of a minor is eight years. Molesting a child younger than 16 is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years. The same offense committed against a child younger than 14 is punishable by imprisonment for five to eight years. The age of consent is 16. On February 18, parliament passed a law making the deliberate use, production, sale, or distribution of child pornography punishable by imprisonment for up to three years.

Sexual exploitation of children remained significantly underreported. Commercial sexual exploitation of children remained a serious problem. In early March law enforcement officers in Vinnytsya Oblast arrested a woman who was suspected of producing and selling pornographic photographs of her five-year-old son on the internet. She was charged with producing and distributing child pornography. The investigation was underway as of mid-September.

Domestic and foreign law enforcement officials reported a significant amount of child pornography on the internet continued to originate in the country. The International Organization for Migration reported children from socially disadvantaged families and those in state custody continued to be at high risk of trafficking, including for commercial sexual exploitation and the production of pornography. For example on April 3, police in Chernivtsi detained two men for allegedly molesting girls younger than age 16. The two men, ages 66 and 74, reportedly filmed themselves sexually abusing minors in their apartment and distributed the pornographic material to a private group on the internet. According to police, the men targeted girls from disadvantaged families. As of mid-September police had identified four girls, ages 11 to 14, who were allegedly sexually abused by the men but continued to search for other victims. The men faced up to five years in prison.

Displaced Children: Most IDP children were from Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. According to the Ministry of Social Policy, authorities registered more than 240,000 children as IDPs, a figure human rights groups believed was low.

Institutionalized Children: The child welfare system continued to rely on long-term residential care for children at social risk or without parental care, although the number of residential-care institutions continued to drop. Government policies to address the abandonment of children reduced the number of children deprived of parental care. A government strategy for 2017-26 calls for the transformation of the institutionalized child-care system into one that provides a family-based or family-like environment for children. As of early in the year, the government’s progress implementing the strategy was slow, with the number of children in orphanages dropping from 106,000 to 100,000 over four years.

Human rights groups and media reported unsafe, inhuman, and sometimes life-threatening conditions in some institutions. Officials of several state-run institutions and orphanages were allegedly complicit or willfully negligent in the sex and labor trafficking of girls and boys under their care. On August 20, the human rights ombudsperson reported the results of a monitoring visit to a state-run institution in the Darnytskyy district of Kyiv that provides medical and social services for children between the ages of four and 18. The monitoring group identified multiple violations of living standards, including cramped bedrooms, inadequate arrangements for privacy in bathrooms, lack of hygiene products, and a cockroach infestation.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

According to census data and international Jewish groups, the Jewish population was approximately 105,000, constituting approximately 0.25 percent of the total population. According to the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities, there were approximately 300,000 persons of Jewish ancestry in the country, including President Zelenskyy. Estimates of the Jewish population in Crimea and the Donbas region were not available, although before the conflict in eastern Ukraine, according to the Jewish association, approximately 30,000 Jewish persons lived in the Donbas region. Jewish groups estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 Jewish persons lived in Crimea before Russia’s attempted annexation.

On September 22, parliament passed a law defining the concept of anti-Semitism and establishing punishment for crimes motivated by anti-Semitism. The law also establishes punishment for making false or stereotypical statements regarding persons of Jewish origin, producing or disseminating materials containing anti-Semitic statements or content, and denying the facts of the persecution and mass killing of Jews during the Holocaust.

According to the National Minority Rights Monitoring Group, two cases of suspected anti-Semitic violence were recorded as of late October. The group recorded approximately four cases of anti-Semitic vandalism as of September 1, compared with seven incidents during the same period in 2020.

On October 7, a man broke into the house of a Hasidic family in Uman and attacked the homeowner in front of his wife and children. The attacker reportedly struck the man several times in his face and body while shouting anti-Semitic insults. Police responded to the scene, and the attacker was taken to a hospital due to his level of intoxication. In late October the United Jewish Community of Ukraine called on police to investigate the case.

Graffiti swastikas continued to appear in Kyiv, Rivne, Kherson, Mariupol, Vinnytsya, Uman, Bogdanivka, Kremenchuk, and other cities. According to press reports, on February 9, a newly erected memorial honoring the 16,000 Jews killed by Nazis in the Proskuriv (Khmelnytskyi) ghetto in 1941 and 1942 was vandalized. Media outlets reported two swastikas were spray painted with a stencil onto the stone wall just below the memorial’s commemorative plaque. As of mid-September police had not identified any suspects in the case. In Lviv, Jewish organizations expressed concern regarding construction on a historic Jewish cemetery, which is also a UNESCO protected site. The Ministry of Culture agreed the site should be protected but appeared unable to protect the cemetery as the local Lviv government refused to enforce the ministry’s stop-work order. In Uman, Jewish organizations complained of construction at the grave of Rabbi Nachman.

In line with the country’s 2015 decommunization and denazification law, authorities continued to rename communist-era streets, bridges, and monuments. Some were renamed in honor of 20th century Ukrainian nationalists, some of whom were associated with anti-Semitism.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities were unable to access public venues, health services, information, communications, transportation, the judicial system, or opportunities for involvement in public, educational, cultural, and sporting activities on an equal basis with others. The law also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, but the government generally did not enforce these laws.

Advocacy groups maintained that, despite the legal requirements, most public buildings remained inaccessible to persons with disabilities.

Patients in psychiatric institutions remained at risk of abuse, and many psychiatric hospitals continued to use outdated and unsafe methods and treatments. On June 9, a monitoring group from the human rights ombudsperson’s office identified violations at the Panyutyn psychoneurological boarding school in Kharkiv Oblast. The monitors observed 20 residents confined to the facility’s gated exercise yard, which lacked toilets; residents needing to relieve themselves reportedly had to use a bucket and lacked privacy. The monitors also reported poor living conditions and low quality of food provided for the residents.

Law enforcement agencies generally took appropriate measures to punish those responsible for violence against persons with disabilities.

By law employers must set aside 4 percent of employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. NGOs noted that many of those employed to satisfy the requirement received nominal salaries but did not actually perform work at their companies.

The law provides every child with a disability the right to study at mainstream secondary schools (which usually include primary, middle, and high school-level education) as well as for the creation of inclusive groups in preschool facilities, secondary and vocational schools, and colleges. According to the Ministry of Education and Science, more than 25,000 children with disabilities attended mainstream schools within the program of inclusive education in the 2020-21 academic year.

Persons with disabilities in Russia-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine suffered from a lack of appropriate care and education.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Stigma and discrimination in health-care centers were barriers to HIV-positive individuals receiving medical services. UNICEF reported that children with HIV or AIDS were at high risk of abandonment, social stigma, and discrimination. Authorities prevented many children infected with HIV or AIDS from attending kindergartens or schools. Persons with HIV or AIDS faced discrimination in housing and employment.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

There was societal violence against LGBTQI+ persons often perpetrated by members of violent radical groups, and authorities often did not adequately investigate these cases or hold perpetrators to account. The LGBTQI+ rights organization Nash Mir noted that criminal proceedings for attacks against members of the LGBTQI+ community were rarely classified under criminal provisions pertaining to hate crimes, which carry heavier penalties. For example, according to a victim’s account published by Nash Mir, on July 2, a police officer beat a gay man in the man’s home in Kyiv while shouting antihomosexual insults at him. The officer had reportedly arrived at the house after being called by the victim’s landlord, who had been engaged in a verbal argument with the victim. The victim filed a complaint with the Dniprovskyy District Police Department in Kyiv, and police reportedly opened an investigation into the attack on July 14 but closed it on August 17 without bringing any charges. According to Nash Mir, police reopened the case upon an appeal from the victim’s lawyer. As of late October, the investigation remained open.

Law enforcement at times condoned or perpetrated violence against members of the LGBTQI+ community. For example, according to the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, police officers in Toretsk violently detained a man shortly after he entered his apartment building on May 3. According to the victim, police struck him on the head without any warning and then held him on the floor with his hands fastened behind his back and the knee of an officer pressed to his head, causing him to lose consciousness at one point. When the man stated that he was a representative of the LGBTQI+ community, the officers reportedly mocked him and continued the abuse. Officers reportedly filed an administrative charge against the victim for resisting arrest, claiming they had stopped him to search his backpack for drugs. According to his lawyers, the victim was hospitalized for one month because of his injuries and was later forced to move away from Toretsk due to threats from police. In June the victim’s lawyers appealed to the SBI to investigate the victim’s allegations.

Public figures sometimes made comments condoning violence against LGBTQI+ individuals. On March 18, a former member of the Kyiv City Council, Ruslan Andriyko, posted the comment, “Burn in the oven!” in the comments section of a news article regarding violence against LGBTQI+ teenagers.

According to Nash Mir, violent radical groups consistently tried to disrupt LGBTQI+ events with violence or threats of violence (see examples in section 2.b.).

The labor code prohibits workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. There is no law, however, against discrimination in other areas, and discrimination was reportedly widespread in employment, housing, education, and other sectors.

Transgender persons reported difficulties obtaining official documents reflecting their gender identity, which resulted in discrimination in health care, education, and other areas.

A UN report noted that Russia-led forces’ regular use of identity checks in the “DPR” and “LPR” and at the line of contact put transgender persons at constant risk of arbitrary arrest, detention, and connected abuses, due to the lack of identity documents matching their gender identity.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution provides for freedom of association as a fundamental right and establishes the right to participate in independent trade unions. The law provides the right for most workers to form and join independent unions, to bargain collectively, and to conduct legal strikes. The law, however, establishes low penalties for noncompliance with collective bargaining agreements by employers. The low penalties were insufficient to ensure employers comply with collective bargaining agreements, making it easier to pay a penalty than to launch negotiations.

There are no laws or legal mechanisms to prevent antiunion discrimination, although the labor code requires employers to provide justification for layoffs and firings, and union activity is not an acceptable justification. Legal recourse is available for reinstatement, back wages, and punitive damages, although observers described court enforcement as arbitrary and unpredictable, with damages too low to create incentives for compliance on the part of employers.

The law contains several limits to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Several laws that apply to worker organizations are excessively complex and contradictory. Two laws establish the status of trade unions as legal entities only after state registration. Under another law, a trade union is considered a legal entity upon adoption of its statute. The inherent conflict between these laws created obstacles for workers seeking to form trade unions. Unions also reported significant bureaucratic hurdles in the registration process, including the payment of notary fees and requirements to visit as many as 10 different offices. Moreover, independent unions reported incidents of employers violating their collective agreements or impeding their efforts to join such agreements.

The Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine reported that the management of public joint-stock company ArcelorMittal Kryvyy Rih ignored collective bargaining by violating the collective agreement envisaging annual wage increases for its workers.

The independent trade union organizations at the Lviv Regional Children’s Clinical Hospital “Okhmatdyt” and at the Polytechnic School Number 3 in Lviv reported that their requests to join their respective collective agreements were not satisfied.

The legal procedure to initiate a strike is complex and significantly hindered strike action, artificially lowering the numbers of informal industrial actions. The legal process for industrial disputes requires initial consultation, conciliation and mediation, and labor arbitration allowing involved parties to draw out the process for months. Workers may vote to strike only after completion of this process, a decision that the courts may still block. The requirement that a large percentage of the workforce (two-thirds of general workers’ meeting delegates or 50 percent of workers in an enterprise) must vote in favor of a strike before it may be called further restricts the right to strike. The government can also deny workers the right to strike on national security grounds or to protect the health or “rights and liberties” of citizens. The law prohibits strikes by broad categories of workers, including personnel in the Office of the Prosecutor General, the judiciary, the armed forces, the security services, law enforcement agencies, the transportation sector, and the public-service sector.

Legal hurdles resulting from an obsolete labor code made it difficult for independent unions not affiliated with the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine to take part in tripartite negotiations, participate in social insurance programs, or represent labor at the national and international levels. Such hurdles hindered the ability of smaller independent unions to represent their members effectively. The government did not enforce labor laws effectively. Penalties for labor law violations slightly increased in January from 5,000 to 6,000 hryvnia ($183 to $220) due to an increase in the national minimum wage, which serves a basis for the calculation of such penalties. Labor inspections became more frequent thereafter. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for other crimes related to civil rights.

In February parliament passed several bills aimed at protecting worker rights, including protections for individuals conducting remote and home-based work.

In September 2020 workers in the Zhovtneva Mine began an underground protest to address low wages and unsafe work conditions. The strikes spread to three other mines, encompassing 400 miners. Workers and employers initially agreed to terms; however, the employer ultimately filed a lawsuit against the protesters and union officials. In October 2020 the workers ended the protest. Miners and mine management reportedly signed a memorandum in which the parties agreed on a 10 percent increase of miners’ salaries, a waiver of prosecution of those miners who took part in the protests, and payment of salaries for those days miners spent underground. On May 7, the Zhovtnevyy District Court of the city of Kryvyy Rih ruled the miners’ protest was not a strike and therefore the actions of the eight participants were illegal.

Miners appealed the court decision and on September 14, the Dniprovskyy Court of Appeals struck down the lower court’s decision. The appeals court fully satisfied the demands of miners who were participants in the underground protest. It also ruled to collect a court fee from PJSC “Kryvyy Rih Iron Ore Plant” in the amount of 25,224 hryvnia ($953). The employer appealed to the Supreme Court. As of late October, the Supreme Court had not decided whether to accept the appeal.

On October 12, the Free Trade Union of Railway Workers of Ukraine (VPZU) and other trade unions spanning several cities organized a work-to-rule action, whereby railway employees came to work but strictly complied with all safety requirements and job descriptions. Trains found to have safety defects were temporarily removed from operation. The VPZU claimed its main demands were safe working conditions and an increase in wages. On October 25, the VPZU reportedly raised concerns to Ukrainian Railways management regarding reports that the railroad’s management had ordered the compilation of lists of railway employees who were members of free trade unions.

Worker rights advocates continued to express concerns regarding the independence of unions from government or employer control. Independent trade unions alleged that the Federation of Trade Unions enjoyed a close relationship with employers and members of some political parties. Authorities further denied unions not affiliated with the federation a share of disputed trade union assets inherited by the federation from Soviet-era unions, a dispute dating back more than two decades.

Independent union representatives continued to be subjected to violence and intimidation and reported that local law enforcement officials frequently ignored or facilitated violations of their rights. Worker advocates reported an increase in retaliation against trade union members involved in anticorruption activities at their workplaces.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties for violations were commensurate with those of other serious crimes, but resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate to enforce the law sufficiently.

During the year the Security Service responded to numerous instances of compulsory labor, to include the production of pornography, criminal activity, labor exploitation, begging, and sexual and other forms of exploitation.

The International Organization for Migration reported that 92 percent of the 511 victims of trafficking it identified from January to June were subjected to forced labor and labor exploitation. Of these, 74 percent were men and 26 percent were women, all between the ages of 18 and 50. The sectors where forced labor exploitation was most prevalent were construction, manufacturing, and agriculture. The vast majority of victims identified during the year had a university degree or vocational education. Annual reports on government action to prevent the use of forced labor in public procurement indicated that the government had not taken action to investigate its own supply chains for evidence of forced labor. Traffickers subjected some children to forced labor (see section 7.c.).

The government continued to rely on international organizations and NGOs with international donor funding to identify victims and provide the vast majority of victim protection and assistance.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor, but it does not always provide inspectors sufficient authority to conduct inspections. The minimum age for most employment is 16, but children who are 14 may perform undefined “light work” with a parent’s consent. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes but were inconsistently applied.

From January to July, the State Service on Labor conducted 1,882 inspections to investigate compliance with child labor laws. The number of inspections remained lower than the total conducted during the same period in 2019 due to COVID-19 measures. The inspections identified 38 employers engaged in child labor activities. Of these, 21 were in the service sector, three in the industrial sector, five in the agricultural sector, and nine in other areas. The inspections uncovered 73 cases of undeclared labor and nine of minors receiving undeclared wages. In the Russia-controlled regions of eastern Ukraine, child labor in coal mining remained a problem. The production of child pornography also remained a problem in the country.

The most frequent violations of child labor laws concerned work under hazardous conditions, long workdays, failure to maintain accurate work records, and delayed salary payments. The government established institutional mechanisms for the enforcement of laws and regulations on child labor. The limited collection of penalties imposed for child labor violations, however, impeded the enforcement of child labor laws.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The labor code prohibits workplace discrimination based on race, color, political, religious and other beliefs, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnic, social and foreign origin, age, health, disability, HIV/AIDS condition, family and property status, or linguistic or other grounds.

The government did not effectively enforce the law, and employment discrimination reportedly occurred with respect to gender, disability, nationality, race, minority status, sexual orientation or gender identity, and HIV-positive status. The agriculture, construction, mining, heavy industry, and services sectors had the most work-related discrimination. The law provides for civil, administrative, and criminal liability for discrimination in the workplace. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations but were not sufficient to deter violations. The burden of proof in discrimination cases is on an employee.

Under the law women are not allowed to work the same hours as men. Women are prohibited from occupying jobs deemed dangerous that men are permitted to hold. Women are also unable to work at night as men could, and women are prohibited from working in some industries, such as those involving underground work. The law prohibits women from work that involves lifting and moving certain heavy objects. The labor code prohibits involvement of pregnant women and women with children younger than three years of age in night or overtime work, work on weekends, and business trips.

The country does not mandate equal pay for equal work. Women received lower salaries due to limited opportunities for advancement and the types of industries that employed them. According to the Ministry of Economy, men earned on average 18 percent more than women. The gap was not caused by direct discrimination in the setting of wages, but by horizontal and vertical stratification of the labor market; women were more likely to work in lower-paid sectors of the economy and in lower positions. Women held fewer elected or appointed offices at the national and regional levels.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The country’s annual budget establishes a government-mandated national minimum wage, which is above the poverty level. Some employees working in the informal economy received wages less than the established minimum.

The labor law provides for a maximum 40-hour workweek, with a minimum 42-hour period of rest per week and at least 24 days of paid vacation per year. It provides for double pay for overtime work and regulates the number of overtime hours allowed. The law requires agreement between employers and local trade union organization on overtime work and limits overtime to four hours during two consecutive days and 120 hours per year. Workers in the information technology sector faced exceedingly long hours and were often classified as independent contractors, ostensibly to avoid responsibility for providing paid leave and other benefits.

Wage arrears continued to be a major problem, especially in the mining industry. A lack of legal remedies, bureaucratic wrangling, and corruption in public and private enterprises blocked efforts to recover overdue wages, leading to significant wage theft. Total wage arrears in the country increased during the year through September to four billion hryvnia ($152 million) from 3.6 billion hryvnia ($136 million) in September 2020. Of these arrears, 77 percent were in the industrial sector in the Donetsk, Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Dnipropetrovsk regions. The Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine reported that wage arrears for coal-mining enterprises amounted to 2.1 billion hryvnias (almost $80 million) as of October 1. Arrears and corruption problems exacerbated industrial relations and led to numerous protests.

The government did not effectively enforce minimum wage and overtime laws. Penalties were not consistently applied and were not commensurate with those of similar crimes. The State Labor Inspectorate (SLI), which is part of the Ministry of Social Policy, is responsible for enforcing wage and hour laws. Labor inspectors do not always have the authority to make unannounced inspections, although unannounced inspections did occur. The SLI has authority to initiate sanctions. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance, and the inspectorate lacked sufficient funding, technical capacity, and professional staffing to conduct independent inspections effectively. The absence of a coordination mechanism with other government bodies also inhibited enforcement.

Labor inspectors may assess compliance based on leads or other information regarding possible unreported employment from public sources, including information on potential violations from other state agencies. For example, when tax authorities discover a disparity between a company’s workforce, its production volumes, and industry norms, they may refer the case to labor authorities who will determine compliance with labor laws.

While performing inspection visits to check potential unreported employment, labor inspectors may enter any workplace without prior notice at any hour of day or night. The law, however, limits inspectors’ authority to enter workplaces without prior notice to investigate compliance with other labor law requirements. The law also allows labor inspectors to hold an employer liable for certain types of violations (e.g., unreported employment), empowering them to issue an order to cease the restricted activity. Labor inspectors may also visit an employer to monitor labor law compliance and inform the company and its employees regarding labor rights and best practices.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law requires employers to provide appropriate workplace safety standards. Employers sometimes ignored these regulations due to the lack of enforcement or strict imposition of penalties. The law provides workers the right to remove themselves from dangerous working conditions without jeopardizing their continued employment. Employers in the metal and mining industries often violated the rule and retaliated against workers by pressuring them to quit.

The same inspectors who cover wage and hour laws are responsible for enforcing occupational safety and health laws. The government did not effectively enforce occupational safety and health laws, and penalties were not commensurate with those of other similar crimes.

In August the Free Trade Union of Railways Workers of Ukraine expressed concern regarding several cases during the year of trains catching fire. The union noted the cases constituted a violation of the occupational safety and health and safety rules at the state-owned railway’s enterprises.

Mineworkers, particularly in the illegal mining sector, faced serious safety and health problems. Operational safety problems and health complaints were common. Lax safety standards and aging equipment caused many injuries on the job.

In the context of the pandemic, a COVID-19 infection in a medical worker was deemed a workplace accident. Workers in the health-care sector organized strikes to raise awareness regarding unpaid wages and hazard pay. For example on August 12, medical workers at the Sosnivska City Hospital in Lviv Oblast went on a hunger strike to protest three months of wage and hazard pay arrears. They suspended the hunger strike on August 16 after meeting with hospital management and local authorities.

During the first nine months of the year, authorities reported 2,532 individual workplace injuries, including 287 fatalities.

Despite active fighting with Russia-led forces close to industrial areas in the government-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine, enterprises involved in mining, energy, media, retail, clay production, and transportation continued to operate. Fighting resulted in damage to mines and plants through loss of electricity, destroyed transformers, physical damage from shelling, and alleged intentional flooding of mines by combined Russia-led forces. Miners were especially vulnerable, as loss of electrical power could strand them underground. The loss of electrical power also threatened the operability of mine safety equipment that prevented the buildup of explosive gases.

Informal Sector: The country’s Statistics Service reported in 2020 that 26.5 percent (or more than four million) of the individuals comprising the country’s labor force were in the informal economy and were receiving shadow income. Approximately 56 percent of the informal sector workforce were men, 43 percent worked in the agriculture sector, 18 percent in trade, 15 percent in construction, 5 percent in industry, and 4.2 percent in transportation. The volume of unofficial income of the labor force was approximately 22.5 billion hryvnias ($855 million.). Informal workers are not covered by wage, hour, and occupational safety and health laws and inspections.